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Aan: Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam College van Bestuur

Sever all relationships with the fossil industry now!

We – scientists, students and employees of Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam – demand that our university severs all ties with the fossil industry. Please sign this petition, and share it among your colleagues. Let’s make the VU truly fossil free.

Waarom is het belangrijk?

The fossil industry is hostile to the energy transition

Fossil fuels (oil, gas, coal) cause 89% of all greenhouse gas emissions. To meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC, no new sources of fossil fuels must be exploited. Research shows that new fossil sources are also unnecessary, as renewable energy production will be able to cover future energy demand. However, the fossil industry is massively expanding fossil fuel extraction, including in the Dutch Waddenzee. Investment decisions by Shell alone are locking in additional CO2 emissions that are two-times greater than the total CO2 emissions of the Netherlands.

The fossil industry does not intend to play a constructive role in the energy transition, as evidence published by the US Congress shows. Fossil fuel companies continue to channel 90% or more of their capital investment into fossil fuels. If the energy transition succeeds, fossil companies will sit on a mountain of unusable fossil fuel reserves worth $900 billion. The risk of ending up with these stranded assets forces fossil companies to actively resist the energy transition for as long as possible. That the fossil industry is hostile to the energy transition is also illustrated by the fact that Shell appealed against the court order to reduce its emissions by 45% below 2019 levels, in line with the Paris Agreement. The fossil industry is not interested in the energy transition to succeed. Instead, it aims to continue its fossil-based business model.

The fossil industry uses its relationships with universities to greenwash their business

Fossil companies have long sought to form collaborations with public institutions, including universities. They do so in order to associate themselves with organizations that the public holds in high esteem, thereby shielding themselves from growing criticism. This strategy helps fossil companies to retain their “social license to operate”, i.e., to maintain public acceptance of their activities.

Collaborations with universities form part of a systematic strategy by the fossil industry to greenwash their damaging business. For decades, the fossil industry has spread misinformation and funded climate change denialism, including in the Netherlands. Large sums are spent on marketing to deceive the public about the climate crisis and about the harm caused by fossil fuels. The fossil industry continues to promote false solutions to the climate crisis, which either are not deployable at the necessary scale (e.g. carbon capture and storage, CCS), are known to be ineffective (e.g. offsetting), or even counterproductive (e.g. using methane gas as a “bridge fuel”). In response, states and cities in the US have lodged multiple lawsuits against fossil fuel companies for systematically deceiving the public. In the Netherlands the advertising authority has ruled multiple times over the past year that Shell made misleading claims about its role in the energy transition.

Collaborations between universities and the fossil industry put researchers at risk of being misused for the industry’s greenwashing strategies. Research shows that university energy centers that receive money from the fossil industry are more favorable towards methane gas than centers that are not dependent on such funding. The fossil industry seeks to collaborate with universities not to advance the energy transition, but to greenwash their business.

There can only be one conclusion: the fossil industry is no partner for the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is the most sustainable university in the Netherlands. Sustainability is one of the key pillars of our institutional strategy, and we plan to make our campus fossil free by 2035. This is a huge endeavor, and numerous employees of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam work hard every day to achieve this goal. At every faculty, scientists are researching the climate crisis, its impacts and possible solutions. For example, the faculty of Earth Sciences has been at the forefront of climate research for decades, researchers from the Athena Institute collaborate with the Environmental Assessment Agency PBL in evaluating Dutch climate policy, and the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute (ASI) connects scientists working on the subject across all disciplines.

An ever-growing number of dedicated programs and courses are being developed and taught to students, such as master programs on environmental management and sustainability. In medical school, students are advocating for planetary health in all courses and programmes. At the law faculty, students study climate litigation, and develop new legal cases against the fossil industry. On a daily basis, students at the Green Office generate positive momentum towards sustainability at the VU. Students, professors, researchers, support staff, the whole VU community are building a place where sustainability is central.

The fossil industry is no partner in the energy transition, just like the tobacco industry is no partner in health-related matters. Existing or planned collaborations with the fossil industry stand in an irreconcilable conflict with the efforts of the VU community to advance the energy transition and to work for a sustainable future. We therefore ask our leadership to draw a clear line, and to sever all relationships with the fossil industry.

For more informations, a list of public supporters of this petition, and for more ways to support this initiative please visit the following google doc:

Hoe het overhandigd gaat worden

The petition will be handed over to the College van Bestuur.

De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam, Nederland

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


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2023-01-31 16:55:58 +0100

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2023-01-10 20:57:24 +0100

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