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University of Bristol faces calls to sever ties with Barclays

Extinction Rebellion Bristol is demanding the University of Bristol uphold its commitments to carbon neutrality and cease all dealings with Barclays.

Image courtesy of Extinction Rebellion Bristol

By Ellyssa Ashley Rozahan, News Investigations Editor

A group of protesters from Extinction Rebellion Bristol has urged the University of Bristol to terminate its association with Barclays Bank due to its, what they call, 'inaction towards the climate crisis.'

The protesters staged their demonstration near the front entrance of Royal Fort Gardens on Tuesday, October 4, with banners and placards.

Along with student-led divestment campaigns dating back to 2014, the University was the first in the UK to declare a climate emergency in 2019.

Bristol University student, Kit, 20, who supports divestment from Barclays, said:

'Against the will of students, the University continues to bank with Barclays who can leverage student money to fund climate destroying fossil fuel projects.

'This is despite the university’s commitment to divest from all fossil fuel ties, and demonstrates a willingness from the university to compromise the very future they claim to provide us with.'

According to the Extinction Rebellion Bristol, these sentiments do not only represent  the concerns of environmentally conscious students, but also those of staff. Senior lecturer and activist at Extinction Rebellion Bristol, Claire Gronow, has called upon how the University to 'show real leadership and commitment' and switch to a more ethical bank to manage student fees, staff salaries and fund research.

Neil Bee, Extinction Rebellion spokesperson said:

'By ditching Barclays, the University of Bristol can send a clear message that continuing to support fossil fuel production is unacceptable. Quite simply, our future is so much better without fossil fuels.'

Regarding this criticism, Peter Vermeulan, Chief Financial Officer at the University, said: 'We take our climate commitments seriously and reflect that in all the actions we take. For that reason, we have divested the University’s investments from fossil fuels and continue to actively engage with our major suppliers, including banks to see where positive improvements and changes can be made.

'I, like many others, am disappointed in Barclays’ climate performance, and that they only put a serious climate plan in place in 2020. In my previous role I actively engaged with Barclays on their lack of progress in this area and witnessed improvement. More needs to be done and for that reason, since joining the University of Bristol this summer, I will step that up even further, with university, staff, and student representatives involved in this.'

Featured image: Extinction Rebellion Bristol

Do you think the university should part ways with Barclays Bank to uphold its commitment to carbon neutrality?