Oxford University to divest from fossil fuels and align to net-zero strategies

The decision was agreed by numerous stakeholders

Oxford University has asked its endowment office, Oxford University Endowment Management (OUem) to engage with fund managers to request evidence of net-zero carbon business plans across their portfolios. OUem will also divest the university’s investments, totalling more than £3bn, away from fossil fuels.

OUem has already shrunk the amount of money it invests in the energy sector from 8.5% in 2007 to 2.6% currently. This largely consists of renewables and just 0.6% of the endowment is now in fossil fuel organisations.

Oxford University’s vice-chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said: “Oxford is a global pioneer in many areas of environmental research and science, from climate economics to biodiversity, energy use and climate change modelling.

The decision was agreed by numerous stakeholders, including the Student Union and the OUem.

“Coupled with our research strengths, our new approach will enhance our position as a world leader in reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change before it is too late.”

Numerous universities have announced divestment strategies following pressure from green groups and students.

The University of Liverpool has committed to removing fossil fuel investments from its portfolio, while the management team at the University of Cambridge accepted a motion, known as a grace, requiring them to “set out fully the advantages and disadvantages, including the social and political ones”, of divestment from global coal, oil and gas companies.

Goldsmiths, University of London, has pledged to divest its endowment fund entirely from companies which generate more than 10% of their revenue from fossil fuels. This decision was taken by the facility’s new warden Professor Frances Corner, who has also banned beef from campus food outlets and introduced a 10p levy on plastic water bottles.

Nonetheless, the UK’s higher education sector is still estimated to hold £1,804 in oil and gas stocks for every student in the system – of which there are estimated to be 2.25m.

Oxford efforts

The University of Oxford is responsible for around 8-9% of the city’s emissions and is working the council and key city representatives to assist with city-wide decarbonisation.

Oxford City Council has pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions within its own operations by the end of 2020, after residents on the local authority’s Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change requested such a move.

At a city level, Oxford has unveiled plans to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles from the city centre with an ultimate aim to deliver a zero-emission zone in 2035. At 16%, transport is the section largest emitting sector in the city behind buildings.

You can read an in-depth exploration of Oxford’s net-zero ambition as part of edie’s “net-zero cities” series.

Matt Mace

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