Environmentalists celebrate Edinburgh University fossil fuels divestment

Caitlin Logan

Scotland will see its biggest full divestment as University of Edinburgh commits to three year timescale

THE UNIVERSITY of Edinburgh has announced that it will divest from fossil fuels within the next three years, a decision which has been celebrated by students and environmental campaigners.

The decision was agreed at a meeting of the university court on Monday and is intended to support the institution’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2040, first announced in 2016.

The move means that Edinburgh University will now have the largest endowment fund in the UK free of fossil fuel investment.

READ MORE: Occupying students make ethical investment demands at University of Edinburgh

Professor Charlie Jeffery, the University’s Senior Vice-Principal commented: “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.”

Edinburgh University began the process of divestment in 2015 when it removed £2.5m of investment from companies involved in coal and tar sands. Currently, less than one per cent of the university’s funds are invested in fossil fuels.

The university has confirmed that it will continue to work with fossil fuel companies in its research and teaching.

Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s vice-president community Oliver Glick said: “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.” 

Friends of the Earth (FoE) Scotland also celebrated the decision and commended the work of the Edinburgh University students’ People and Planet group which has run a six year divestment campaign.

FoE Scotland divestment campaigner Ric Lander said: “Congratulations to the campaigners who have secured this fantastic victory through their hard work, creativity and commitment. Their victory will give inspiration to those campaigning for climate justice in Scotland and around the world. 

READ MORE: Scottish councils slammed for investing £1.7bn into climate-wrecking pension funds

“Climate change is already affecting millions of people as rising seas and more extreme weather destroys lives and livelihoods. Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis and the University of Edinburgh’s decision to free their endowment fund from this industry is a truly significant step.

“Seven Scottish institutions have now committed to completely divest from fossil fuels. The University of Edinburgh’s actions make clear that investors can take bold and clear action to tackle climate change, that it’s consistent with Scotland’s wider efforts to phase out fossil fuel cars and ban fracking, and that now is the right time to back a fossil free future.”

People and Planet Edinburgh spokesperson Paula Lacey said: “People and Planet Edinburgh has been fighting for divestment for years, with a huge amount of hard work and support from student and local activists. 

“This announcement has been a long time coming and we are overjoyed that the University has finally come round. Now it’s time for us to hold them to their promise to divest within the time frame established, and to ensure that the endowment fund is never invested in the fossil fuel industry again.”

Data released in November 2017 revealed that Scottish Council pension funds invest £1.8 billion in fossil fuels, including £100m in the Lothian Pension Fund. Friends of the Earth and others are continuing to press local councillors in Edinburgh, who help manage the funds, to support divestment from fossil fuel companies.

Picture courtesy of Friends of the Earth Scotland

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