Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University to limit fossil fuel ties

Leiden University no longer wishes to collaborate with fossil fuel partners that are not demonstrably committed to achieving the Paris Agreement targets. Exceptions will be made only if a collaboration demonstrably contributes to the energy transition. This proposal by the Executive Board was discussed by the University Council on 12 February.

The university’s ties with the fossil industry will undergo significant changes but will not be completely severed. For example, collaboration will be possible with partners that are demonstrably committed to the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius. Collaboration will also be possible if, for example, a fossil fuel partner has data indispensable to research into the use of hydrogen, or knowledge that contributes in other ways to the energy transition.

Signalling function

The parties on the University Council generally responded positively to the plans, although there were still comments and concerns. Joost Augusteijn (Leidse Academische Gemeenschap) wanted the Board to appreciate how assessment at the level of individual partners also has an important signalling function. He also wanted to stress that it should not be possible for the university to work with ‘good companies’ on ‘bad projects’. Rector Bijl concurred, ‘We should indeed be able to reject projects.’

Victor van der Horst (Partij voor Bèta en Medische Studenten) was concerned that certain basic research would no longer be able to proceed because it would not always be clear in advance whether this would contribute to the Paris Agreement. Bijl said she understood his concerns and explained that whether such projects go ahead would depend on people’s decisions. But she could also imagine that certain basic research would no longer be able to continue. ‘This policy will affect the university’s research portfolio no matter what.’

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