More than 90 British universities urged to divest from fossil fuel funders

This is based on the Make My Money Matter Campaign, which submitted several Freedom of Information (FOI) requests between July to August 2023.

Each of the 95 universities analysed holds a relationship with at least one of the UK’s banking giants including Barclays, HSBC, Santander, NatWest, and Lloyds.

The five banks have collectively provided $419bn to the fossil fuel industry since 2016, including $141bn to the world’s top fossil fuel expanders.

Make My Money Matter’s co-founder Richard Curtis said: “As the climate crisis intensifies – with the evidence all around us – we should all be looking at our banks to find out if they are financing fossil fuel expansion. This is particularly important in the case of universities.

“When they hold their money with banks who are bankrolling new fossil fuels, they are not just going against the wishes of their students, but actually jeopardising those same students’ futures.

“Why fire up your students with learning and at the same time condemn them to living in a world on fire?”

According to the analysis, almost three-quarters (73%) of the divested universities bank with Barclays including the University of Bristol, University College London, and the University of Glasgow, which was the first university to commit to divest from fossil fuels in 2014.

It bears noting that Barclays is the UK’s biggest contributor for fossil fuel finance since the start of 2016, having provided the industry with almost $190.6bn.

Earlier this year, Barclays received major pushback from investors for its continued role in driving the climate emergency and ‘weak’ new fossil fuel policies.

ShareAction’s head of asset owner initiatives Emma Robertson said: “Universities have an opportunity beyond their investments to send a clear message to companies, including banks, to scale up action to shift our economies to net-zero.

“We know that Barclays, which is Europe’s largest financier of fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement, has a lot of room for improvement.”

Shifting attitudes

In partnership with Students Organising for Sustainability, the Campaign also carried out a survey, revealing that approximately 75% of students believe that their universities bear a duty to tackle climate change.

Approximately 60% of the respondents expressed a preference for their university not to associate with a bank that funds fossil fuels.

Furthermore, nearly one-third (29%) of students indicated that they would feel uneasy about continuing their education if they learned that their university was linked to a bank that supports fossil fuel initiatives.

Students Organising for Sustainability’s Nat Gorodnitski said: “Banks are the biggest funders by a long way and rely heavily on the higher education sector for recruitment, reputation, and business, while their fossil fuel financing contradicts academic research, university policies, and students’ needs.

“This gives students and universities the unique power to pressure banks to end their fossil fuel financing in a meaningful way, and call for a shift to funding sustainable energy, where there’s a real future for students’ careers and lives.”

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Yes, fossil fuels – CO2, not good for global heating, but to replace the energy provided by them, to our benefit, is not a simple matter.
    Does the world have enough of the elements needed to provide the energy storage needed to utilise solar or nuclear power.
    Dubious I would have thought.
    After a lifetime as a scientist in this sector, I still regard it as a major problem; but there it is.
    Perhaps the Green sector can suggest a workable system which solves the problems. It would be highly praiseworthy.

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