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Leeds students occupy Esther Simpson building over uni’s ties with fossil fuel industries

Student Rebellion Leeds are occupying a lecture hall for 24 hours to hold a workshop

Members of Student Rebellion Leeds are currently occupying the Esther Simpson building at University of Leeds.

Student occupiers are calling for the university to cut all ties to the fossil fuel and arms industries.

In a post shared on Instagram yesterday afternoon, the action group said it would be occupying conference room 1.01 for 24 hours, in order to hold a workshop day to discuss “climate and social justice issues in a way that is engaging and accessible for students.”

The announcement of occupation follows a talk hosted on Monday by the university regarding its net zero climate plans, which Student Rebellion criticised for being token-like in gesture: “We think talks like this are good but the conversation needs to be more than an hour and more than once a term.”

It continued: “Students are interested in the climate crisis but the uni often makes their climate plan and talks like these full of confusing climate science jargon and it puts students off.

“We must strive to understand these issues in a holistic way and make spaces where we feel empowered to contribute to their solutions. It is the responsibility of all of us to acknowledge the problems and act to solve them.

“We must challenge our institutions to cut all ties to the arms and fossil fuel industries, to admit where we are failing, and to be prepared to go faster and stronger with justice at the centre.”

In what the group describes as a “day of alternative education”, the workshop is said to include guest talks from other societies on campus, including SASHA and LGBT+ Soc, as well as coverage of topics such as  how take direct action against Drax power station, the climate crisis and health and how students will change food systems.

It isn’t the first time that Student Rebellion has occupied Esther Simpson; last November, the group staged a protest against Leeds University’s investment ties with oil, gas, coal and mining companies. Despite lasting for 12 days, activists were unable to secure a meeting with uni management or extract a promise for Leeds to cut all ties with fossil fuel corporations.

A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: “We are taking a robust approach to tackling the existential challenge of climate change, with a £174 million Climate Plan which includes our target of delivering net zero emissions by 2030.

“This event was designed as an opportunity to learn more about our recently approved Net Zero Delivery Plan, which marks an important step towards achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

“The plan includes increasing our electrical supply to campus, understanding the potential of geothermal energy and a new ventilation system to significantly reduce energy demand in the Worsley building.

“We know our students and staff are anxious about the threat from climate change and a lack of progress in the world at large.

“Working collaboratively with our staff and students we will continue to gear our curriculum, research and campus activity to lead climate action locally, nationally and globally.”