VU Amsterdam stops collaboration with fossil fuel companies

VU Amsterdam no longer wants to collaborate with companies in the fossil fuel sector that fail to comply with the Climate Agreement.

There have also been recent demonstrations on the TU Delft campus by action groups Scientist Rebellion and End Fossil. Here at the Delft Business Days in February 2023. (Photo: Nikita Ham)

VU Amsterdam is happy to work with partners that “demonstrate transparency about their efforts in relation to the energy transition and hold themselves accountable for it”. Companies in the fossil fuel sector often fall short in that regard, it says in a press release.

Consequently, the university wants to take on new research projects only with companies that “commit themselves demonstrably, and soon, to the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement”.

VU Amsterdam is also launching a platform to start a “broad, critical and constructive dialogue” with directors, employees, shareholders and regulatory bodies. It would also like to involve other universities in the platform.

‘Second in the world’
Scientist Rebellion, a scientists’ climate action group, is delighted with the news and says that VU Amsterdam is only the second university in the world, after Princeton University in the USA, that has broken its ties with the fossil fuel sector in this way.

‘I’m proud to be working at VU Amsterdam’  

“After many years of campaigning, VU Amsterdam is now doing what is necessary”, says activist and lecturer in environmental geography Niels Debonne. “It now has an even greater right to the title of the most sustainable university in the Netherlands and I’m proud to be working here.”

But he is on his guard too. “We have to keep reminding the university that it has to carry through this plan in practice and that the fossil fuel companies with which it continues to collaborate also reduce their emissions substantially within a few years”, Debonne adds. 

Finish research
VU Amsterdam is not breaking ongoing partnerships with fossil fuel companies. PhD candidates will be allowed to complete their research. There are three research projects with Shell and one with another fossil fuel company, a spokesperson says. It is not known when they will end, but if a decision is taken to extend them, the new conditions will apply.

Other Dutch universities are examining their collaboration with fossil fuel companies as well. The University of Amsterdam announced in February that it does not want any new partnership with Shell for the time being. At TU Delft, climate activists from End Fossil and Scientist Rebellion have been campaigning in recent months. This led to a ‘deliberation’ on the future of cooperation with fossil companies.

However, this is not to say that TU Delft intends to take similar steps as VU Amsterdam. In December 2022, vice-rector Rob Mudde was quite clear: “We will not cut all ties with the fossil industry. On the contrary, we are working with these companies to accelerate the energy transition.” He did promise to be more transparent about the total amount of fossil research grants the university receives. Chances are that is more than what VU Amsterdam has on its balance sheet.

HOP, Peer van Tetterode

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

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