Victory for campaigners as Edinburgh university backtracks on fossil fuel investments

Web edinburgh uni fossil investment protest

The University of Edinburgh has announced it will fully divest from three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers within the next six months

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27th May 2015 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Campaign groups and charities have welcomed news that the University of Edinburgh is to fully divest from three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers within the next six months.

The University of Edinburgh’s investment committee made the announcement following a meeting earlier this week.

The university had previously announced changes to its fossil fuel investment policy on 12 May but angered students by offering no clear timetable for divestment instead saying it would attempt to monitor and change the behaviour of the companies it invested in. The move lead to some students staging a 10-day occupation in the university’s finance department.

Campaigners said the latest announcement was a welcome move and they were glad the university had recognised their position.

Professor Charlie Jeffery, the university’s senior vice-principal, said the university will now write to the three companies giving them four weeks to respond but added it intends to divest within six months.

The science is clear, to protect our climate the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned and in the ground

Lang Banks, Scotland director at WWF Scotland, said: "This is a welcome move by the university and we hope it marks the beginning of the end for their investments in climate-trashing fossil fuels.

"The students and staff are to be congratulated for their persistence on this important global issue, as I am in no doubt this would not have happened had it not been for their campaign.

"The science is clear, to protect our climate the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain unburned and in the ground."

Kirsty Haigh of Edinburgh People and Planet, which began a campaign for divestment three years ago, said: “We are glad to see the university finally accept that there are lower carbon alternatives to coal and tar sands, but it should never have taken this long.

“The university is pledging to engage with these companies for the next four weeks before divesting, but have refused to outline what that means.

“These companies pour millions into greenwashing and it is crucial that the university is not bought over by this, and that they follow through and fully divest from them.”

As well as occupying the finance department campaigners dropped banners from Edinburgh monuments, blockaded access to administrative buildings and 300 alumni pledged to boycott donations if the university did not commit to divest

Ric Lander, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, added: “Today's announcement suggests Edinburgh University is listening but students, staff and alumni are unlikely to be reassured until they take the final step to divest from fossil fuel companies.”

Professor Charlie Jeffery said: “This decision underlines the recent commitment made by the university to address the challenge of climate change though its responsible investment policy.

“We will act quickly to reduce harmful emissions through divestment, reinforcing the work we do to act on climate change through research and teaching.”