Leeds University hosted the panel discussion on climate change and climate leadership, which focused on the rapidly growing Divest Parliament campaign, as well as efforts to divest in Leeds.
This follows the announcement that over 50 MPs have signed a petition to remove fossil fuel investment from the parliamentary pensions fund. The panel was particularly relevant to the university due to the student referendum that was held last year where 82% of students voted in favour of divestment, although the outcome was ignored by the university.
Hilary Benn, the MP for Leeds Central, served as environmental secretary in the last Labour government and was included on the panel alongside other expert speakers from the university. Although Benn has not signed the divestment pledge, he argued that “the case for keeping fossil fuels in the ground is increasingly overwhelming.”
Joe Duffy, a coordinator of the Leeds area for Divest Parliament, said: “The popularity of this event and Hilary’s decision to attend is further proof that people are demanding leadership on environmental issues, both at this election and beyond.
“Any candidate asking for our vote should recognise their responsibility to not only uphold the UK’s international climate commitments but also to protect people’s jobs, pensions and livelihoods and to safeguard the health of our planet for future generations.
“We look forward to making sure that all our representatives, including Mr Benn, join the 50 MPs who have shown true environmental leadership by signing the divestment pledge”
The campaign, which seeks to prevent the university from investing in fossil fuel research and business, is part of a wider global movement. 710 institutions across 76 countries have committed to divest, representing over four trillion pounds in assets.