Last week we reported on the suspension and arrests of several students from King’s College London following their involvement in a campaign to persuade KCL to divest from fossil fuels. Since then, several members of the Green Party have written to King’s to show their support for the students.
After hearing about the protests online, Siân Berry AM, a London Assembly Member for the Green Party, was approached on Facebook by one of the students involved. In response to our email inquiry, Ms Berry said she had been “more than happy to do something” and wrote to Professor Edward Byrne AC, the current President and Principal of King’s. The letter (which was also posted on social media) was co-signed by elected Green Party members Caroline Russell AM (and Islington Councillor), Jean Lambert MEP, and Councillor Scott Ainslie. It is hardly surprising that the Greens support divestment, which Ms Berry has advocated for in her capacity as both Assembly Member and Councillor for Camden.
The letter begins by suggesting the students involved in the protest merely wanted a “proper discussion” regarding the future of fossil fuels at KCL and that calling the police was a “very unusual” step. The letter goes on to explain that divesting from fossil fuels (a move reportedly supported by 96% of KCL students) would not only help to reduce climate change, but could be financially beneficial for the university as well.
Referring to previous examples of divestment, the letter explains that fossil fuels are fast becoming stranded assets and investing in companies reliant on their use is increasingly risky. Ms Berry told us that she thought it was a good idea to put forward the financial case because this issue is “not just about ethics but investing in things that actually have a future, such as renewable energy, rather than fossil fuels”.
The letter concludes by urging KCL to reconsider their actions against the students, imploring them to talk to the campaigners rather than punishing them for their part in an “entirely non-violent and peaceful protest” on an issue “of great concern to us all”.
King’s has not yet issued a response but Ms Berry is hopeful that they will pursue a dialogue with the campaigners rather than imposing these “harsh sanctions”. Academic careers may depend on it.