Exeter, Devon UK • Jun 13, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home NewsCOVID-19 UK Universities take £40m in Fossil Fuel funding since 2022

UK Universities take £40m in Fossil Fuel funding since 2022

Hannah Woodley writes on the extensive funding UK Universities have received from fossil fuel companies over the past year.
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Image: Ivan Radic via Wikimedia Commons

Shell and BP are among the major fossil fuel companies giving funds to UK universities whom have pledged to divest, reveal freedom of information requests from climate journalism site, DeSmog.

Among these Universities, Exeter has accepted the most investment. As of November 2022, the University of Exeter signed a £14.5m five-year deal with Shell, to work on a ”carbon storage and sequestration project”, which will develop technologies that remove carbon from the atmosphere, forming part of a project to enable shell to move towards their net zero 2050 goal. However, a Global Witness report recently revealed that Shell plans to invest $46bn dollars in fossil fuels by 2030, which in combination with their record 2022 profits, makes their net zero goal hard to substantiate, and effectively a fantasy.  

As of November 2022, Exeter signed a £14.5m five-year deal with Shell, to work on a ”carbon storage and sequestration project”

Additionally, an investigation by the oversight and accountability committee found that fossil fuel companies have spread disinformation regarding the climate crisis, and engage in greenwashing to distract the public away from their large investments into fossil fuels, and devastating impact on the environment. Perhaps this is illustrated in their partnership with Exeter University, ranked first in Europe for climate impact and world-renowned in climate science.  

Juliana Gaertner, from the global Witness Gas Campaign, stated: “Pull back the PR, tear away the greenwash, and unwrap the false promises – in whatever way fossil fuel companies dress it up, they are throwing exorbitant sums towards prolonging the fossil fuel dependent world they have created. At the very least these companies could be putting this money toward a genuine transition to renewables rather than ploughing it into yet more climate-wrecking fossil fuels.” 

Pull back the PR, tear away the greenwash, and unwrap the false promises – in whatever way fossil fuel companies dress it up, they are throwing exorbitant sums towards prolonging the fossil fuel dependent world they have created.

Juliana Gaertner

Exeter University isn’t alone, with imperial college London receiving £6.7m, the second most funding from fossil fuel firms since 2022, and Manchester University receiving investments from BP, claiming the partnership is to support the company in becoming net zero by 2050. However, like Shell, BP also generated record profits last year, as well as scaled back their plans to cut emissions by 2050, making their net zero plans appear unlikely.   

As can be seen from the diagram below, despite supporting the Paris Climate Agreement, countless fossil fuel firms are still projected to invest billions of dollars into fossil fuels by 2030, and their investment into universities seemingly acts to greenwash this. 

Image: screenshot from https://www.globalwitness.org/en/campaigns/fossil-gas/ipcc-clarion-call-puts-spotlight-on-fossil-fuel-industrys-hypocrisy/

However, students and young people around the UK continue to campaign against this investment. In October, a Just Stop Oil protestor painted the forum at Exeter University, as well as other paint protests taking place at numerous universities across the country.  

Green party MP Caroline Lucas told the Guardian: “Young people care so deeply about protecting the planet because their futures are on the line. Yet fossil fuel giants are putting that future at risk with their planet-wrecking pollution, and then attempting to youthwash their reputation by handing over dirty money to universities. 

“If we’re going to tackle the climate emergency and secure a liveable future for the next generation, educational institutions should cut all ties with fossil fuel companies immediately.” 

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