by Lewis Martin

If it’s not one thing it’s another with UEA. Weeks after their announcement that they’ve finally divested from fossil fuel companies, People and Planet UEA have discovered that the university has nearly £23 million invested with Barclays Bank. This won’t be particularly surprising to most – there is a branch on campus after all – but it shows the university’s ongoing decision to disregard the unfolding environmental and ethical situation of the world it operates in.

Some context: Barclays currently sit second to bottom in Ethical Consumer’s ranking of current account providers, and not without reason. Barclays own Third Energy, who have been licensed to start controversial fracking operations in Ryedale, Yorkshire. Between 2014 and 2016 they provided over $13 billion in financing for extreme fossil fuel projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was the subject of huge protests last year. These examples, of which there are many more, showing Barclays’ willing compliance with the continued destruction of the environment in order to make a quick buck, no matter the cost.


FOI request by People and Planet UEA, revealing the extent of the university’s relationship with Barclays. Credit: People and Planet UEA

These continued attacks on our environment are why campaigners such as People and Planet are leading the fight to get Barclays to divest from the fossil fuels industry, and why Student Unions such as Sheffield’s are boycotting the bank until they do so, increasing the pressure they face as well as making a public statement of disgust at their actions.

UEA regularly shows off about how ‘green’ its campus is, but the good work it does do on this front is completely undermined by continued investment in Barclays. £23 million is a drop in the pond in terms of Barclays’ finances, but it is a significant amount of UEA money – equivalent to a year’s worth of the tuition fees of 2,486 students, invested into the bank to use as they see fit.

Barclays have gotten away for too long with financing industries that kill innocent people and are killing our planet

Barclays’ has a dark history of unethical investment. It was the subject of major protests for its role as a major shareholder in Israel’s largest arms producer until 2015. Until they were forcibly called out on it, Barclays were happy to profit from the occupation of Palestinian land and to be complicit in the murder of innocents in the various conflicts that took place in the area. There isn’t a single shred of moral consideration in what they do with their money. By investing in Barclays throughout this period, UEA dismissed the demands of many of its students who support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign in relation to the continued occupation of Palestine, which its own Student Union has subscribed to.

Institutions such as UEA owe it not only to their students but to the world to ensure that they live up to their green image and invest according to it. We were told many, many times during the fossil free campaign about how the university is a leader in climate research, and how they want to play their part in creating a better world. But actions speak much louder than words. Barclays have gotten away for too long with financing industries that kill innocent people and are killing our planet. UEA’s continued complicity in these environmentally reckless and ethically outrageous actions shows how little faith we can have in its grand claims. If UEA seriously cares about the planet and those that inhabit it then they must take action, and divest from Barclays Bank.

Featured image via People & Planet

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