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SOAS becomes first London university to divest

first London university to divest

Students and staff celebrate SOAS’ decision to divest from fossil fuels. Courtesy of: Fossil Free SOAS, 2015

SOAS University of London has become the first university in the UK’s capital, and the third in the UK to commit to pulling it investments out of fossil fuels, in what has been tipped as a historic decision.

The decision is the culmination of an 18-month campaign by students and staff from the university and will see the institution divest the £1.5 million of its £32 million endowment held in oil and gas companies within the next three years. The university has no investments in coal.

Professor Paul Webley, Director of SOAS, said:

SOAS is proud to become the first university in London to divest and we hope more universities will follow suit. Divestment from fossil fuels will enable SOAS to fulfil its responsibilities as an ethical investor, while continuing to ensure that the School’s investments deliver a financial return.

SOAS has also extended the exclusion of fossil fuel companies to its donations policy.

The university has become the third in the UK to commit to fossil fuel divestment – following in the footsteps of Glasgow and Bedfordshire.

It is part of a global movement calling on institutions to move their investments out of dirty energy sources.

Julia Christian, Fossil Free SOAS campaign member, said:

We are so proud to be SOAS students, staff and alumni today. This is a historic decision, part of a shifting tide away fossil fuels that is happening across the world as we speak.  The fossil fuel industry is a thing of the past. We urge our governments to pay attention to the inspiring divestment campaigns by people young and old at universities, local governments and religious institutions across the world, and put all our weight towards shifting to the renewable energy future we need.

Andrew Taylor, Campaigns Manager at People & Planet said:

If you are interested in studying environmental or social justice issues at a university that definitely won’t be investing your fees in wrecking the climate, then SOAS must now be one of the top places to do it. Universities that continue to say no to divestment are eroding their legitimacy to teach about sustainability.

In the US, Syracuse university and the New School in New York have both announced plans to divest, while Stanford is moving out of coal.

Over 220 institutions have committed to divest to date, including faith organisations, pension funds, philanthropic foundations and local authorities, with more than 500 campaigns currently active.

Collectively these campaigns are challenging the social licence of the dirty industry, showing that its practices are no longer socially or morally acceptable.

The campaign is the faster growing divestment campaign ever seen and moving quicker than those against tobacco and apartheid.

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