Edinburgh Uni expected to dump coal and tar sands stocks

The University of Edinburgh is expected to approve plans to divest from companies involved in coal and tar sands extraction, but campaigners said the action did not go far enough.

The university’s central management group made the partial-divestment recommendation on Tuesday and students have been informed that it is expected to be approved at the next meeting of the University Court in May.

However, a separate proposal to divest from natural gas was not supported, prompting student campaigners to call for the university’s £230m endowment to move away from all fossil fuels.

“It’s absolutely crucial that the university do not give into big fossil fuel companies and flout their moral obligations,” said Kirsty Haigh, communities vice president at NUS Scotland.

“Full divestment from fossil fuels is the only responsible action. The University shying away from this and choosing to not divest fully is continuing to fund climate chaos. Our futures are too important to be gambled away for university profit.”


As part of a growing trend of sustainability commitments in Higher Education, the University of Glasgow became the first scholastic institution in Europe to pledge to divest from the fossil fuel industry last October, while St Andrews University recently installed a £25m biomass plant as part of its plan to be carbon neutral by 2016.

Miriam Wilson, a campaigner at Edinburgh pressure group People & Planet, said: “If Edinburgh does actually divest from tar sands, they will be excluding every major oil company from their portfolio, including BP and Shell. Rejecting the dirtiest fossil fuels like coal and tar sands should just be the start.

“Oil and gas can’t be side-stepped. With divestment decisions expected from a number of prestigious universities over the coming months, the University of Edinburgh risks lagging behind if it does not divest from all fossil fuel companies.”

Since October 2013, students in the People & Planet network have launched over 60 Fossil Free campaigns across the UK, engaging over 25,000 students. But just two universities in the UK – Bedfordshire and Glasgow – have actually divested so far. Decisions are expected from UCL, Warwick, and Oxford in the coming months.

Last month, Oxford controversially deferred its decision on fossil fuel divestment – an announcement which prompted high-profile alumni to threaten to hand back their degrees.

Earlier today, edie reported that universities and colleges in England will miss their collective 2020 carbon emissions reduction target by half based on current trajectories, according to new research. Read the full story.

Brad Allen

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