Senior London Green Party members have written to the King’s College principal in support of student fossil fuel divestment activists.
Signatories of an open letter encourage the principal, Professor Edward Byrne, to engage in a “proper discussion” of fossil fuel divestment.
They also warn him against pursuing harsh disciplinary action against political protesters from King’s College Climate Emergency.
The letter follows an escalating campaign of anti-fossil fuel actions by student activists, during which students have gone on hunger strike, been banned from campus and even arrested.
It is signed by London Assembly members Sian Berry and Caroline Russell, London MEP Jean Lambert, and Lambeth Councillor Scott Ainslie.
The letter reads: “We are elected members of the Green Party in London and understand that in the last few weeks seven students have either been suspended, threatened with suspension, or banned from King’s College.
“We also understand that, in a very unusual step for King’s, college authorities have called the police to arrest students for political activities.
“We support a number of divestment campaigns and believe that these students want nothing more than proper discussion with you about a change in policy to divest the college’s financial affairs from fossil fuels.
The leading Greens underline that: “A clear majority of students and staff support this, with a survey showing 96 per cent of King’s College students in favour of divestment.”
As well as the ethical case for preventing climate change, the authors lay out the financial case for divestment. They point out that fossil fuel investments are viewed as “stranded assets”, as they do not accrue significant value. The letter also highlights that fossil fuel investments are risky “at a time when the environmental impact is a matter of increasing scrutiny”.
Climate Emergency activists have participated in escalating protests in the past two months to demand the College principal sit down with them to discuss divesting from fossil fuels.
A 2013 FOI request found that King’s have £8m worth of investments in companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell and PetroChina, but in September 2016 the university agreed to partially divest. Climate Emergency are now asking for full divestment from big oil and environmentally damaging practices.
In January, they spray painted the front of a campus building with the word “DIVEST”. Then, in February they used chalk spray paint to write slogans in the main hall.
Police arrested activists Roger Hallam and David Rhys Allen following the latter action. They were held in custody for 14 hours before their release early the following day. They are now no longer allowed on campus and the university may press charges against them.
King’s College Climate Emergency are planning further protests including a student hunger strike.