6 February 2018

The University of Edinburgh divests from fossil fuels

The University of Edinburgh has announced it will phase out investment in fossil fuel companies within 3 years, making it the largest UK university endowment fund to abandon the fossil fuel industry.

Up until now, investment in fossil fuels accounted for less than 1 percent of the University’s £1 billion funds under management.

The first signals that the University is intending to use its investments and procurement power to leverage the transition to a low carbon economy came in May 2015. Within weeks after its announcement, the University already divested £2.5 million from three major coal and tar sands companies, i.e. Shell, RTZ and BHP Billiton.

Despite a long-standing student campaign urging the institution to decarbonise its investment strategy completely, the University instead pledged to put pressure on fossil fuels companies to monitor their emissions and make more efficient use of their energy sources.

However, this Monday the University’s ruling body approved the proposal to let go its remaining £6.3 million fossil fuel holdings in Total, BG Group and Atlas Copco triggering great excitement among the academic and student community of the University.

Prof Charlie Jeffery, the Senior Vice-Principal at the University of Edinburgh, said: “I’m very proud of the university’s decision. Climate change is one of the world’s biggest challenges. Over the past few years, we have thought hard about how to respond to that challenge. This change in our investment strategy is a vital step on that journey.”

Ollie Glick, Edinburgh University Students' Association's Vice-President Community, commented: “We are delighted with today's announcement. Students and the Students' Association have been passionate about removing fossil fuel investment from the University‘s portfolio for many years”.

The commitment furthers the University’s mission to become carbon neutral by 2040. Since it launched its Zero by 2040 Climate Strategy in 2015, it has invested more than £30 million in low carbon technologies on campus, more than £50 million in climate research, and more than £60 million in clean energy technologies.

In 2013, the University of Edinburgh became the first European university to join UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment.

Edinburgh has now joined a list of more than 60 UK universities which have pledged to divest from fossil fuels, including the University of Sussex, the Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Kent.

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