Concerned students and involved parties including End Fossil Occupy Utrecht (EFO Utrecht) are protesting at Utrecht University today. They are occupying an area in the Minnaert building and have written a manifesto demanding an accessible university that breaks all ties with the fossil industry. They indicate that the occupation may last for three days, from 8 to 10 May.
The Executive Board understands and shares the concerns of those present and is keen to engage with them. "This protest shows our community’s commitment to the climate crisis and our sustainability agenda," says Anton Pijpers, president of the Executive Board. "In addition, it makes visible that students and staff are concerned about the future. I feel those concerns too. We agree that there is a climate crisis and that action is needed. I also discuss this regularly with our scientists and students."
"As a university, we have an important role because we help develop new knowledge and possible solutions. Sometimes this also creates dilemmas. We are happy to enter into conversation with those present in the Minnaert building. In recent weeks, End Fossil Occupy Utrecht did not respond to invitations to have a conversation extended by the university. We hope this will happen now."
Sustainability and discussion on cooperation with fossil
At Utrecht University, we think it is important to continue contributing to a sustainable world. For this reason, sustainability is one of the four research themes we focus on and it is an important theme in our teaching. Our scientists not only provide insight into how big the climate crisis is and could become, but also contribute to solutions to combat climate change. In addition, we are constantly working to make our own operations more sustainable. Because this topic is important to us, sustainability was also the theme of our Dies Natalis in March.
Currently, there is a lot of discussion about whether universities should cooperate with the fossil industry, and if so, under what conditions. Therefore, we are organising a series of meetings on these questions. The first meeting took place at the end of March and the next one will be on 15 May. In addition to students, staff and representatives of groups such as EFO Utrecht and Scientists4Future, official employee and student representation and the Executive Board will also participate. They will use the outcomes of these meetings in future policy choices, such as frameworks for considering collaborations. The aim is to have a draft decision before the summer of 2023.
Ongoing research projects in collaboration with fossil companies focus on developing knowledge to accelerate the energy transition, phase out fossil as soon as possible, and avoid further CO2 emissions. We want to be transparent about what collaborations there are, and the content and funding of these collaborations. We are working to make this information available in the course of May 2023.
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