The worldwide Fossil Free De-investment Movement pressures large institutions, such as universities, banks and retirement funds, to turn investments in the fossil-fuel industry into investments in clean energy and communities affected by climate change. As Maastricht University is a public institution and does not have its own direct investment portfolio, Fossil Free Maastricht has slightly different goals.
“What Maastricht University can do is look at its indirect investments”, says Emily Humphreys, initiator of Fossil Free Maastricht and master’s student of Sustainability Science and Policy. “Take where it does its banking. A bank doesn’t keep your money in a safe; they invest it as they see fit. At the moment UM is with ING. European law means it can’t switch to a sustainable bank like Triodos or ASN [public institutions are obliged to choose a bank with a triple A status –Ed.], but they can switch to a green index tracker at ING. This means the bank will only invest your money in companies that are not linked to fossil fuels and that are ethical. This excludes things like the weapons industry.”
The pension fund ABP is also on Fossil Free Maastricht’s radar, especially after the fund was criticised for investing in the tobacco and weapons industries. “They’ve improved a lot since then, but there’s still much that could be done, especially when it comes to transparency. People have a right to know where their pension money is coming from.” Again, the university’s possibilities are limited – ABP is the mandatory pension fund for all government and education organisations. “But they could release a statement asking ABP for more transparency and ethical choices. That’s what the University of Groningen has done.”
Humphreys has spoken with the Executive Board and the director of the Limburg University Fund (which manages donations to the university). “They were open to our ideas. With the petition we hope to show that it’s not just our group of fifteen students, but a larger part of the student body, who feel this is an issue.”
Fossil Free Maastricht will organise a meeting in February for people who would like more information. Details will follow on their Facebook page (UM Fossil Free).