News Article

A Conversation with: Julia Pressner, Campaign Lead for Fossil Free Careers

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Can you introduce yourself and tell us about how you got involved in climate activism?  

My name is Julia, I am Swiss-American, and I currently study Physics and Philosophy. I got involved in climate activism during high school when I was back home in Switzerland. My local community was very active and politically engaged, we ran the Swiss branch for Greta Thunberg’s strikes for climate action. I took part by spreading the word whenever there were strikes and demonstrations.  

How did you continue that work when you started university? 

When I came to the UK, I realized how behind the country was on climate activism and action, I expected more especially in London. I had friends back home who became involved in local politics but since I’m not British, I couldn’t do that. So, I decided to focus on activism. I joined the Climate Action Society in my 2nd year and I’m now the President. I have also been working with People and Planet on their Fossil Free Careers campaign since last year; you can say our campaign is the KCL Chapter of theirs. King’s has already divested from all fossil fuel industries in 2021 but there’s still more to be done; just recently, it was announced that they’ve dropped their 2025 Net Zero target.  

Why Fossil Free Careers? 

King’s has made strides in climate action and committed itself to being an environmentally conscious university so it would be completely hypocritical if they keep encouraging students to go into fossil fuel industries. It is not just enough to divest monetary investments; students are the future of the workplace and an investment in themselves. If we discourage students from going into fossil fuel careers, we can cut the problem off at the root if these industries do not have the labor to keep going.  

Of course, it is not enough for just King’s to adopt a Fossil Free careers policy, but one university can inspire another university and we can use that momentum until it’s all the universities in the UK, then in Europe and then in the world. No other Russell Group university has adopted this yet, so King’s has a chance to be the climate action trailblazer it claims to be and lead this movement.  

What goals do you have for this campaign? 

Our goals are to get the KCL Careers Team to:  

  • Commit to cutting ties with the fossil fuel industry. This would mean not making new relationships with fossil fuel industries and not renewing old ones. An example of this would be not allowing fossil fuel companies advertise on campus and events such as the Welcome Fair  
  • Adopt a publically available policy based on which the university can be held accountable 
  • In the future, the goal is to spread this to all student societies and faculties (especially in NMES) so that they collaborate with and promote sustainable careers instead of fossil fuel industries  

What has the student response been so far?  

It's mixed but it’s never been negative; people either support it or ask why they should care at all. I campaigned on campus for just one day and managed to get the 50 signatures we needed to pass the petition so I would say it’s positive.  

Why should students care about this? 

Students have always been involved in climate activism at King’s, there was actually a student group that campaigned for divestment a few years ago!  

Students need to remember that the only way to success is collective action, important stakeholders will not just listen to one person. King’s has painted itself as an environmentally conscious university with recent events such as Sustainability Month, so we need to hold them to those standards. Our university is our home, and it is our right to live in a home that protects us and listens to us.  

But even on a completely selfish level, sustainable careers are the way to go. But we can’t promote sustainable startups if the fossil fuel companies are monopolising all the attention and labour force.  

Why do you think the campaign is likely to succeed? 

One reason we’re better positioned to succeed is because King’s has already divested its fossil fuel investments.  

Another reason is that this has simply never been done before. It takes a lot of student effort. We expect action to come from the top down, but it hasn’t, so we must take it into our hands.  

What now? What do you want students to do? 

  • Sign the petition!  

  • Email [email protected] if you want to join the campaign team.

  • Come to our campaign launch! Register for a free ticket here.

  • The eventual step is to contact faculty, gather support and write an open letter to the university on behalf of students and faculty.


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