Academics call on University of Manchester to divest from fossil fuels

Author Jeanette Winterson among 96 signatories of letter to board of governors

July 7, 2015
Oil rig

Author Jeanette Winterson is among more than 90 University of Manchester academics who have signed an open letter calling on the institution to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

According to the Fossil Free Manchester campaign group, the university currently has more than £9.5 million-worth of shares in six of the sector’s largest companies, including BP, Shell and Glencoe Xstrata.

The letter, which was released ahead of a meeting of Manchester’s board of governors tomorrow which is likely to discuss the issue, says that these investments had an “environmentally degrading and socially irresponsible” impact.

Ms Winterson, Manchester’s professor of creative writing, has signed the letter alongside 95 other researchers and staff members.

Kevin Anderson, professor of energy and climate change at Manchester and deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, which has its headquarters at the University of East Anglia, is also among the signatories.

The letter, which is addressed to Dame Nancy Rothwell, the vice-chancellor, and the board of governors, follows the collection of 2,000 signatures on a student-led petition on the issue.

“We believe this is a tremendous opportunity for the University of Manchester to demonstrate decisive and forward-thinking leadership on one of the most pressing global issues of our time,” the letter says. “We hope you will give serious consideration to our students’ demands that the university commits to freezing new investment in fossil fuel companies and divesting within five years from the top 200 fossil fuel companies that control the majority of carbon reserves.”

So far institutions including the University of Glasgow and Soas, University of London have announced plans to divest from fossil fuels.

Other institutions such as the University of Edinburgh and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have changed their investment policies, but have stopped short of full divestment. Governors of the University of Warwick are also due to discuss fossil fuel investments at their meeting on 8 July.

The University of Manchester had not provided a comment by the time of publication.

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