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Glasgow University becomes first in Europe to divest from fossil fuels

divest from fossil fuels

Glasgow University has today become the first European university to announce it will divest from fossil fuels. Creative Commons: Hugo Cadavez, 2010

Glasgow University made UK history today by becoming the first educational institution in Europe to announce it will ditch fossil fuels.

Following a year of campaigning, involving over 1,300 students and academics, the university announced it would divest its £128 million endowment – at least £18 million of which is currently invested in fossil fuel companies – citing the “devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet.

David Newall, Secretary of the University of Glasgow Court said:

The University recognises the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption.

It follows in the footsteps of a host of prestigious universities, cities, religious institutions, pension funds and charitable foundations choosing to move their money away from dirty energy.

And Glasgow is just the start.

During the summer the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) become the first UK university to take any action; freezing new investments in the fossil fuel industry.

SOAS is expected to make a decision on divestment in the next month.

Decisions are also imminent from a hand full of other institutions including the University of Edinburgh, who conducted a university wide student and staff consultation in which respondents overwhelmingly supported divestment.

Oxford University and it’s colleges, with investments of £3.8 billion, have the largest endowment wealth of any UK higher education institution. The university is currently conducting a staff only consultation on divestment, after almost 2,000 Oxford students and academics joined a campaign calling for divestment from the fossil fuel industry.

Andrew Taylor, Fossil Free UK campaign manager at student campaigning organisation People & Planet said:

Divestment now has a firm foothold in the UK. Student and academic pressure to get out of fossil fuels is building across the sector. It’s time to stop profiting from wrecking the climate, whether you’re an institution with lots of money like Oxford or Edinburgh, or a world leader in climate research such as the University of East Anglia. Glasgow has helped make the moral case crystal clear and we expect more universities to very soon put their money where their research is.

Today’s moves shows that more and more institutions are waking up to the fact that it’s wrong to profit from wrecking the planet – and risky too.

Divesting from fossil fuels is an astute move.

The institutions choosing to move away from these dirty energies are heeding the warnings from the world’s leading scientists and financial experts that large swathes of known fossil fuels must stay in the ground to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and that continued investments in such fuels poses a significant risk to profits.

The divestment movement is picking up pace and represents the growing chorus of voices calling for strong climate action.

Since the beginning of the year, the global fossil fuel divestment movement has doubled in size, and what started with a few US universities has grown into institutions with a combined asset size of more than US $50 billion pledging to ditch their holdings in fossil fuels.

The campaign is at the forefront of a burgeoning movement of people around the world who are taking to the streets to challenge institutions and governments and demanding strong climate action.

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