Join the Fossil Free Campaign
The fossil fuel industry is unequivocally driving us towards a global climate crisis: we will not keep dangerous climate change at bay without halting our extraction of fossil-fuels.
UK universities and colleges support the fossil fuel industry directly through their research, their £5.2bn investments in fossil fuel companies and their partnerships with some of the worst-offending companies in the world like ExxonMobil, BP and Shell.
Why focus on fossil fuels?
Climate change is already having massive effects on some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. No one wants to flee their home because of famine or conflict caused by extreme weather. Yet since 2008, climate-related disasters displaced 22 million people yearly across the world. Communities on the frontline of fossil fuel extraction are also seeing their land and ways of living destroyed.
Indigenous communities across the globe are resisting the expansion of extractive projects across the world and we should support their struggle.
If the fossil fuel industry had put people before profits, millions of people would not be losing their livelihoods or becoming refugees in their own countries and beyond. And worse is still to come. Fossil fuel companies hold five times more carbon in their fossil fuel reserves than we can safely afford to burn to stop runaway climate change - and are still spending billions searching for more.
200 publicly-traded companies hold the vast majority of the world’s proven coal, oil and gas reserves. Those are the companies we’ll be asking our institutions to break their links with.
From Canada’s dirty tar sands to Arctic drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) for shale gas - the fossil fuel industry is scraping the bottom of the barrel and causing huge environmental and human devastation in the process. Withdrawing our institutions’ financial and moral backing for this climate-wrecking industry is crucial to tackling climate change.
Divestment and Solidarity
Climate justice activism is at one of its most exciting, crucial junctures. Indeed, the movement is rapidly gaining momentum, and is becoming a site of truly creative, uncompromising action. The Fossil Free campaign is a key pillar of this movement.
So why is Fossil Free so special? In many ways, it is a uniquely effective solidarity campaign. Indeed, whilst it may seem that climate change knows no borders, the disproportionate impact of fossil fuel extraction on the Global South is immense. This gives rise to the well-trodden question: what can we do here to help?
True solidarity is about locating your own position(s) within the international system that funds, profits from and legitimises environmental destruction, and fighting from there. In other words – understanding how the institutions that we feed into, with our money and our legitimation are responsible for capitalism-induced climate change; the consequences of which are racist, classist, sexist and imperialist.
This is the crux of Fossil Free. Many grass-roots movements, governments and organisations in the Global South have for a long time been vocalised their opposition to fossil fuel companies. From Nigeria to Bolivia, they have witnessed the devastating human cost of their activities first hand – and are aware of the future consequences that await them.
Divestment is one way we can help to weaken the fossil fuel industry further to support frontline communities in their fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground.
What can I do?
See if there's already a campaign at your university:
If there isn't a campaign on your campus then why not get one going yourself? Since the campaign started there have been over 90 local Fossil Free groups in UK universities and colleges. With two-thirds of UK universities committed to divest it's time for us to mainstream divestment. Get in touch and we can support you to get things going.
How to win on fossil fuel divestment.
1. Build your Group
All good campaigns start with a good team. Start recruiting!
All good campaigns start with a strong team. Get together with your friends, hold a digital event to recruit interested students, and remember to think outside the box about who to invite: a diversity of experiences and opinions often makes a group stronger. Holding a social event early on is a really great way to build trust and get to know each other. This can be done digitally too! From Netflix watch parties to Zoom Quizzes, there are many activities you can organise.
<<< Get in touch through our online form if you run out of ideas and you want to explore more with us!
2. Plan the Campaign
The campaign you run will depend on your institution - they’re all different...
One of the most important things for a successful campaign is keeping up momentum and not trying to do everything at once. Sit down with a calendar and figure out how you can keep up excitement over the coming months. Remember, good campaigns are like good stories; the more interesting your narrative, the more likely people will want to follow along and take part. One of the first things you'll realise is that you want to know what links your institution has to the fossil fuel industry. Luckily as part of the People & Planet University League we have pulled together a Fossil Free score card that has all this info.
3. Build Support
It’s time to raise awareness on campus and build the support for your campaign: write an open letter to your Vice-Chancellor, get creative, use the media.
Campaigns often falter because they turn into back room negotiations with an investment committee, rather than a public-facing effort that galvanises campus and community support. As you plan out your campaign, make sure to identify ways that you and your group can stay visible, even while campaigning online, to raise awareness and build campus support among students and staff. Make sure to check our digital action guide for more resources on this!
Another effective way of building your campaign, attracting new students and putting pressure on your institution is through a petition.
Get started and create your own online petition using our tool. You’ll have full control over the wording and design of your petition. The petition tool also allows you to share it easily on social media and build your contacts list - you can email the people who’ve signed to keep them updated about your campaign progress and events.
Click the button/link above, then just click the Start a Campaign button to get started with your own petition.
4. Practise solidarity
It’s likely that you won’t be the only group on campus fighting for justice, and it’s vital that you practice solidarity with other struggles.
Solidarity demands action. Show up at other groups’ events and actions, without expecting anything in return. Take stock of your privilege(s), and offer them to other campaigns. If you can, offer your skills, time and body – but make sure you also take care of yourself, and don’t get overworked!
5. Negotiate and escalate
To win, you will need to convince the decision-makers at your institution.
Throughout the campaign, as well as your crucial awareness raising activities on campus, you will also need to engage in ‘inside track’ campaigning. This means engaging with the institution’s administration in a respectful and professional way, building and making a serious case for why they should divest or drop a particular sponsor.
At the same time, be ready for any outcome: they might be reticent and not act on your demands! To put pressure on them, you need to escalate your campaign.
Actions will look different this year, but you can still be disruptive. Think about Zoombombing universities open days, or mass-commenting on their social media posts celebrating how great they are. Have a look at the digital action section of our digital action guide for more ideas, or get in touch!
6. Escalate or WIN!
When your institution is about to make a decision on your Fossil Free campaign, you need to be ready for any outcome. That means being prepared with press releases, but also having plans in place for celebration or escalation actions.
If the decision is positive, get in touch with us. Make sure you share your story widely, on social media, on blogs, and with the press. It’s also vital to celebrate the victory with your campaign group, so hold a digital event and invite all those that have been involved in the campaign throughout the years, if you know them!
7. Follow through
You will need to make sure your university delivers on what it’s promised.
Often, management uses the high turnover of student campaigners to backtrack on previous commitments. Make sure this doesn’t happen to your campaign, by organising a successful handover and passing all essential information to those that will campaign after you!
Be prepared to take action, if you realise that your university is not moving along as it promised. Check out our Accountability Guide for more info on this!
Fossil Free is the quickest growing divestment movement in history! There are campaigns across the globe with hundreds of thousands of supporters.
So far due to student pressure 102 UK universities and 2 Irish have committed to divest from fossil fuels in some form. These commitments cover endowment wealth of over £17.7bn.
In the UK two organizations have broken their sponsorship links with fossil fuel companies; The Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges dropped British Gas as a sponsor and Student Pride dropped BP as a sponsor!
Globally $40.56 trillion has been committed to divest from fossil fuel companies with over 1500 institutions pulling their money out.