Glasgow University to divest from fossil fuels

Scottish university becomes first in the UK to announce plans to ditch controversial investments

Glasgow University has announced that it is to sell off any shares it holds in companies that produce fossil fuels.

The university is the first in the UK to make such a commitment and the announcement follows a campaign – including rallies and fake oil spills and involving more than 1,300 students and academics – pushing for the change.

‘The university recognizes the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels,’ says David Newall, secretary of the University of Glasgow court in a statement. ‘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.’

Glasgow University adds that the commitment ‘is subject to reassurance that the financial impact for the university is acceptable’.
The university will freeze new fossil fuel investments, and over 10 years, divest its hydrocarbon investment which, according to the BBC, is around 4 per cent of its total endowment.

Last month, as world leaders were preparing to meet at the UN Climate Summit in New York, the $860 bn Rockefeller Brothers Fund – founded by the sons of late oil tycoon John Rockefeller – announced its intention to divest from the source of its wealth. Glasgow University also joins 13 US universities and numerous other institutions who have collectively pledged to withdraw more than $50 bn in fossil fuel investments – though this makes little dent in assets still invested in the industry.

Other British universities are also considering a move away from such investments, with the School of Oriental and African Studies, which placed a temporary freeze to fossil fuel investments in July, expected to make a divestment decision in the next month. Decisions are also imminent from the University of Edinburgh, University of London and Oxford University, which is consulting on divestment from $3.8 bn worth of assets.

Divestment from carbon-heavy assets has been growing over the year as scientific reports suggest it will only be possible to burn around a third of the fossil fuels already discovered while maintaining a stable climate, supporting the argument that divestment makes financial as well as environmental sense.

‘Well done Glasgow University for becoming the first university in the UK to take this hugely important step in taking its endowment fund investments out of fossil fuels,’ says Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland in a press release. ‘Not only is this great news for the planet, but it also makes good financial sense. There are five times as many fossil fuels on the balance sheets of big energy companies as climate science tells us it is safe to burn, so at some point this carbon bubble is going to have to burst.’

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