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Glasgow University becomes first in Europe to divest in fossil fuels

ByStuart McFarlane

Oct 9, 2014

The University of Glasgow has become the first university in Europe to divest from the fossil fuel industry, with the University’s leaders announcing a withdrawal of £18 million in investments over the next decade.

The decision from the university’s court follows a 12-month campaign involving over 1,300 students, with rallies and other events being led by the Glasgow University Climate Action Society.

The university have confirmed that the commitment to the divestment is subject to a continued evaluation by the governing body that its long-term financial impact is acceptable. As a result of the decision, the University will also freeze new hydrocarbon investments, which make up around four per cent of its total endowment of £128 million.

David Newall, secretary of The University of Glasgow’s governing 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.”

Started in 2011 on six American college campuses, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has attracted the support of over 800 major investors – including the Rockefeller Brothers – who have pledged to withdraw $50 billion of fossil fuel investments over the next five years.

In making its divestment pledge, The University of Glasgow joins thirteen US universities who have already committed to the campaign, with students at several other UK universities facing strong opposition in their divestment campaigns from governing bodies eager to keep a tight rein on university finances.

A similar announcement on divestment is expected from The University of Edinburgh following the publishing of an ethical investment consultation document for staff and students last year, where the issue of divestment in fossil fuels was supported by over half of the respondents.

Speaking to The Student, Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) Vice President Services, Tasha Boardman said: “We are overwhelmingly happy that Glasgow University became the first university in Europe to divest from fossil fuels after the decision was passed unanimously at University Court yesterday. It is absolutely fantastic that they are leading the way in reducing the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“However it is a shame that this wasn’t Edinburgh. Last year The University of Edinburgh was the first university in Europe to commit to the United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Investment.”

Boardman also offered an update on the current progress of fossil fuel divestment proposals at the University: “Yesterday I attended the University’s Central Management Group (CMG) where the outcome of the University’s consultation on the UN Principles for Responsible Investment was considered. At the meeting, CMG agreed the outline revised ethical investment policy in principle, subject to a refinement of the proposed approach to consideration of proposals of divestment.”

“CMG stated they recognised the seriousness and complexity of the issues involved and agreed to set up a short-life working group, with representation of all interested parties across the University (including student representatives), to consider in detail the case for disinvestment from fossil fuels.”

By Stuart McFarlane

News Editor

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