Last week, People and Planet society held a pumpkin carving event with a difference – all pumpkins were carved with slogans or images relating to its Divest Barclays campaign.
On Halloween, the pumpkins were placed outside the Barclays branch opposite the University of Leeds campus, along with placards to raise awareness of the bank’s investments in the fossil fuel industry.
From a beheaded Barclays bird to slogans calling on the University to ‘bank better’, the pumpkins sent a message to the University that it’s time to cut ties with Barclays bank.
People and Planet told the Gryphon: “As students, we need to know that our institutions consider the ethical implications of their finances.
“Universities should be preparing us for our future, not contributing to the climate crisis.”
Despite the poor weather a group of students turned out to protest the University’s ongoing investment in Barclays. At the end of the protest the society swapped recipe ideas for the insides of the pumpkins so as to avoid food waste.
According to a 2019 study, Barclays is the biggest funder of fossil fuel infrastructure in Europe, having invested $85 billion in the fossil fuel industry over the last three years.
Moreover, Barclays is reported to hold substantial investments in weapons companies such as BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Boeing. Barclays is also the University’s main banking provider, making us painfully complicit in climate breakdown.
The Divest Barclays campaign is a national student-led movement aiming to raise awareness of Barclays’ environmental and human rights abuses and putting pressure on British universities to cut all financial ties with Barclays bank.
The campaign builds on the experience of previous Fossil Free divestment campaigns in which students pressured British universities to stop investing in fossil fuel companies, deploying a mixture of petitions, lobbying and direct action to achieve divestment.
Leeds’s People and Planet won our Fossil Free campaign in 2019 when the University of Leeds removed £3.5m of its investments in fossil fuel companies such as Shell, BP and Total. Having won the divestment campaign, their attention turned towards the University’s secondary financial connections with the fossil fuel industry.
Students have been working on the Divest Barclays campaign over the last year. At a Better Union Forum last May, students voted for the LUU to lobby the University to cut ties with Barclays, demonstrating their support for the movement.