Climate seminar and student initiative for a fossil free university

The University of Gothenburg gives an open, multi-disciplinary climate seminar series as part of the university climate strategy. Some five seminars every year gather researchers from various disciplines from the University of Gothenburg and other academies to illuminate diverse aspects of the climate issue and the importance of research in coping with climate change.

Text by: Ellen Lagrell

The student initiative Fossil free Göteborgs universitet is campaigning for the University of Gothenburg to “divest” from fossil fuels in order to green the university’s financial portfolio. During a climate seminar in the main university building on April the 9th, students debated with researchers and university representatives if the university can influence the development towards a fossil free society through its investments and whether it is the university’s responsibility to do so.

What actually is fossil industry?

Moa Karlsson and Herman Andersson represented Fossil free, arguing that investment in companies in the fossil industry is both morally wrong and an economic risk as the majority of existing fossil fuels must be left underground in order to halt climate change at a manageable level.

Joakim Sandberg, Associate Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Gothenburg, problematized the issue, saying that to significantly affect the market and in turn the companies, requires a great many holders acting. He also noted the difficulty in drawing boundaries of which companies belong to the fossil industry. Is it just companies extracting fossil fuels, or does it also include businesses depending on the fuels, or selling them?

GU_BlogPost_april2014_Fossil_frittStudents debating on fossil freeness with researchers and university representatives in Gothenburg University’s Climate seminar 9.4.2014.

Positive screening

An alternative to divesting from fossil fuels suggested by Sandberg is to invest in more sustainable energy solutions. This strategy is called positive screening as opposed to negative screening based on exclusion. Tomas Kåberger, professor at Chalmers and chairman of Japan renewable energy foundation, reported of the explosive growth of renewable energy technology worldwide, and an emerging decline of the fossil industry. According to Kåberger, the costs of renewable energy are falling thanks to a successful development of solar and wind energy, while traditional power companies are becoming much less worthy.

Importance of student initiatives

During the closing panel discussion, the students stressed the importance of the university acting responsible and making a moral statement as a societal stakeholder and an academic institution. The university placement policy is continuously being considered by a board chaired by the vice-chancellor, and Tommy Wallhult, controller at the university, encouraged the students to continue the discussion. With over a thousand student names on a petition, Fossil free has relevant support for their campaign. And as Tomas Kåberger stated: It is fun to do right, and if everyone does right, something good comes out of it.

Check here a short interview with the students Moa Karlsson and Herman Andersson:


Video in Youtube:

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