Dear Anders Overgaard Bjarklev,
Fellow students and colleagues and I find that it is time to discuss DTU’s involvement with the fossil fuel industry. The research centre DTU Offshore, previously known as the Centre for Oil and Gas, receives comprehensive funding from the fossil fuel industry. The French oil company TotalEnergies alone has a contract of DKK 1 billion with DTU Offshore, and 8 out of 10 members in the Technology Application Workgroup at DTU offshore are from the three oil companies TotalEnergies, Nordsøfonden and Noreco. While most of the research programmes at DTU are beneficial for climate change mitigation, the maintained business with the fossil fuel industry does not belong at a modern university.
DTU is promoting itself as a responsible elite university with sustainability at its core. In its own words it describes this responsibility: “As a leading centre of expertise, we take responsibility by developing value-creating, sustainable technology for people and advising on sustainable solutions. DTU develops and uses technology with an equal sense of responsibility and care.”
The fossil fuel industry is known to actively work against climate policy. By cooperating with the fossil fuel industry to increase fossil fuel yields, DTU is actively counteracting the green transition that society so desperately needs. This is in clear contradiction with DTU’s devotion to sustainable solutions and a neglect of the responsibility that DTU claims to take.
As the leading technical university in Denmark, the research at DTU is affecting political decisions on a national level – both for the better and for the worse. Today, much of the world’s leading research is being conducted at universities. And in a time of crisis, this comes with an extraordinary responsibility. Importantly, we don’t question the academic freedom of researchers at DTU. In fact, accepting funding from Big Oil can be a threat to academic freedom.
The world's stability has been changing in recent years and we face an uncertain future. We are in the midst of a global climate crisis, with climate disasters worsening year by year. And we are losing time to act. The recent IPCC reports are very clear. According to co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III, Jim Skea, “it’s now or never if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C”. And this September, the UN’s environmental agency found that there is “no credible pathway to 1.5°C in place”. These are unprecedented historic times. As a species, we simply risk social and ecological collapse.
According to the 2022 IPCC reports, one of the five key measures to achieve the goal of halting climate collapse is to reduce fossil fuel use. And this requires a steep reduction of fossil fuel energy resources. Even though energy prices are rapidly increasing, we cannot afford to enhance our fossil fuel production as a global society.
In an open letter from earlier this year, 500 academics from the US and the UK called on university leaders to reject all funding from fossil fuel companies. Likewise, we are now calling on you to reconsider DTU's involvement with fossil fuel extraction. We are tired of seeing large banners around campus that promote DTU’s sustainable initiatives, while DTU at the same time refuses to take the responsibility that follows as a leading technical university. Therefore, we urge you to restore the integrity of the institution by progressively rejecting funding from the fossil fuel industry and by refusing to renew the current contract with TotalEnergies.
Davide Dolente, Lukas Kluge and the rest of Divest DTU