In an email to all students this afternoon (20 May), Vice-Chancellor Steve Smith declared a University-wide Environment and Climate Emergency. The announcement comes after weeks of action by environmental group Divest Penryn on the Cornwall Campus.
The statement aims to “support those calling for urgent action and show our commitment to leading the change required.” The challenge of moving away from fossil fuels requires “brave leadership, financial investment, organisational and structural transformation and human behaviour change on a scale we have never seen before.
“From today, we will bring together our world leading experts on climate change and the environment to develop a specific set of actions and a programme of work that has substance and will make a difference based on evidence and science.
“We want to establish Exeter as an exemplar and leader in the higher education sector, consistent with our international reputation for research on the environment and climate change.”
“we will develop a specific set of actions and a programme of work that has substance and will make a difference”
Divest Penryn campaigns for the University to divest from fossil fuel companies and to declare a climate emergency. The group gained notability on May 2 through unfurling a banner from a Penryn campus building, reading “Exeter Stop Funding Climate Breakdown”. According to Divest Penryn, despite citing itself as a leading institution in climate science, the University still invests more than £2 million in fossil fuel companies.
Notably, the Vice-Chancellor’s announcement responds only to the climate emergency aim, and not to divestment. In a comment to Exeposé, Divest Penryn stated:
“Students across the Uni are glad to see Exeter publicly recognising the urgency of the climate crisis, and we look forward to seeing them act on their word.
“This makes the university’s continued profits from shares in oil and gas corporations even more hypocritical. We need a public commitment to full, unconditional divestment from all fossil fuels. Until we see this, we will continue to take action to highlight their hypocrisy.”