Green Party in England & Wales
Oxford Vice-Chancellor threatens last-minute U-turn on green energy
On Wednesday March 8, at 1.15pm, students, academics and community members are to gather in a demonstration outside the Vice-Chancellor's office in Wellington Square, Oxford, and hand over a petition of student signatures, protesting Oxford University's decision to cease sourcing all of its energy from green sources.
The university hit the headlines in 2002 with its commitment to 100 per cent 'green' energy and after heavy pressure it renewed this commitment in 2005, making it currently Europe's 11th biggest purchaser of green energy (1). It is an international centre for climate change research, and the focus of the UK's three main programmes: the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP), the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and it recently became a core partner in the second phase of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. Its own Environmental Change Institute takes 'energy and lower carbon futures' as one of its three major research themes (2) and it makes much of its 'green' approach in its publicity. However, Vice-Chancellor Dr Hood has now said that the University is "unwilling to commit" to 100 per cent green and may return to fossil fuels.
Oxford University Green Party students, along with the Oxford 'People and Planet' group and student union Environment Committee, are leading the campaign to mobilise students and academics to demonstrate their support for renewable energy. Academics and scientific bodies are being asked to write to Dr Hood personally, and an online student petition gathered 700 signatures in less than 48 hours.
Green Party City Councillor Matt Sellwood, who led the initial 2002 campaign to 'Switch to Green' and represents 4000 Oxford students on the City Council, said: "This is not the time for Oxford University to back away from its environmental commitments. On the contrary, the University should be doing much more to mitigate climate change, including funding new renewable energy capacity. Greens on the city council have already shown how large institutions can take a lead on climate change - the university must now follow in kind."
Climate change is a topic that increasingly dominates the national and international agenda - Tony Blair confessed at the G8 summit in July that it was "probably, long-term, the single most important issue we face as a global community," (3) whilst the Pentagon has described it as "a US national security concern" (4). Recent rises in oil prices make it clear that the current reliance on fossil-fuels is unsustainable, and as dramatic weather conditions like Hurricane Katrina continue to escalate it is becoming more and more obvious that the problem needs to be confronted.
In its Annual Report 2004/5 Oxford University wrote: 'Whilst most people now recognise that melting ice caps and soaring atmospheric carbon levels are not good news, it doesn't really seem to have sunk in that we are on the verge of a whole series of crises points from which there will be no turning back' (5). The Green party, along with the Oxford student community, waits for the university to realise that its own behaviour is contributing to the problem.