Companies must demonstrate their commitment to the energy transition

VU Amsterdam will not work with fossil fuel companies anymore

Vrije Universiteit. Bron: Wikipedia
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Photo: Wikipedia

VU Amsterdam declares in a statement that it is only willing 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.

From now on, VU Amsterdam will only take on new research projects with companies that “commit themselves demonstrably, and soon, to the targets set by the Paris Climate Agreement”.

The Amsterdam-based university is also launching a platform to start a “broad, critical and constructive dialogue” with managers, employees, shareholders and regulatory bodies. It would also like to get other universities involved with the platform.

Second in the world
Scientist Rebellion, a protest group created by scientists, is thrilled. The group notes that VU Amsterdam is the second university in the world, after Princeton University in the United States, to sever its ties with the fossil fuel sector in this manner.

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

He has his guard up, however. “We have to keep reminding the university that it has to carry this plan through in practice and that the fossil fuel companies with which it continues to collaborate should reduce their emissions substantially in the next few years”, Debonne adds. 

Finish research
VU's announcement only concerns new research projects. Ongoing partnerships with fossil fuel companies will be maintained, which means that PhD candidates currently working with these companies will be allowed to complete their research. There are three research projects in collaboration with Shell and one project with another fossil fuel company, according to a spokesperson for VU Amsterdam. The university is not sure when these projects will end but, if they are extended, the new conditions will apply.

Other Dutch universities are examining their collaboration with fossil fuel companies as well. The University of Amsterdam, for example, announced in February that it is not interested in new partnerships with Shell for the time being.