Students slam Vice Chancellor: ‘Stop funding climate change’

May 29, 2017

Students slam Vice Chancellor: ‘Stop funding climate change’

Protestors remained peaceful despite frustrations with the university. Photo: Katie Doyle

A group of protestors have stormed the office of Auckland University’s Vice-Chancellor demanding he supports divestment from fossil fuels.

The 15 students belong to the activist group ‘Fossil Free UOA,’ which is fighting for the university to stop investing money in the coal, oil and gas industries.

They have locked themselves inside the entry doors to Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon’s office, and have vowed to sit peacefully until their voices are heard.

Spokesperson Alex Johnston said divesting from the fossil fuel industry was a matter of extreme urgency if climate change was to be prevented.

“Currently the fossil fuel industry is intent on digging and drilling and burning all of the fossil fuels that are in reserves around the world, but we know that if we are to keep global warming within two degrees, we have to leave at least 80 per cent of fossil fuels in the ground,” said Mr Johnston.

“It is totally unacceptable that a university who is meant to set us up for the future is investing in companies that are some of the worst causes of climate change.”

Mr Johnston said support from Professor McCutcheon would prove invaluable when the University Foundation met later this month to discuss present investments.

He said the foundation would be “receiving a letter from university staff and student associations demanding a change” before that meeting.

“If the Vice Chancellor comes out in support of divestment, I think it will send a really strong signal for that meeting.”

Earlier this year the group submitted a petition containing 3000 signatures, which Mr Johnston said was “disregarded” by Mr McCutcheon.

“We think that response was unacceptable, which is why we are taking this action today.”

Languages student Aine Kelly-Costello said her disability was a driving factor in her decision to attend the protest.

“I’m blind and I think this helped to instill in me a sense of justice and what fairness means,” said Miss Kelly-Costello.

She said climate change was quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis and required urgent attention.

“McCutcheon is treating the issue like it can wait, but it can’t because we are now in an emergency situation.”

Security guards are maintaining a watch outside the building.

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