Bedfordshire joins Glasgow in fossil fuel commitment

The University of Bedfordshire has become the second higher education institution in the UK to commit to not investing in the fossil fuel industry

January 20, 2015

Bedfordshire has formalised its ethical investment strategy which prevents the university from investing in the fossil fuel sector, confirming their long-standing informal policy on the matter.  

Bill Rammell, vice-chancellor at Bedfordshire, said the university was “acutely aware of our duty to invest our money in ways which match our values and prioritises the future of our students”.

“As part of that commitment we ensure that all investment decisions are made responsibly and take seriously the threat of climate change. Therefore we took the decision not to invest in specific sectors such as fossil fuels and this is written into our ethical strategy.”

Last year, the University of Glasgow was the first to announce that it had committed to divest £18 million from fossil fuel companies, sparking mixed responses from campaigners and academics.

Paul Younger, Rankine chair of engineering at Glasgow, told Times Higher Education in October that he was “utterly dismayed, and vehemently opposed” to the divestment.

“It is better to characterise this as an instance of collective intellectual dishonesty,” he said, adding that, unlike apartheid or tobacco, fossil fuels were “not some unmitigated evil from which no conceivable benefit to society has been derived”.

Glasgow’s decision followed Soas, University of London’s plan to freeze new investments in fossil fuel firms.

People and Planet, a student network which campaigns to protect the environment, estimate that £5.2 billion of combined university wealth is invested in the fossil fuel industry.

This accounts for £2,083 for every student in the UK.

Last week, University College London released research which suggested that 80 per cent of coal, 50 per cent of gas and 30 per cent of oil reserves are “unburnable” under the goal to limit global warming to no more than two degrees Celsius. However, UCL has refused to divest its own money from the industry.  

The University of Bedfordshire was ranked 14th out of 151 institutions in its ethical performance by People and Planet this year – up from 124th in 2010.

Plymouth University topped the 2015 league, followed by the University of Worcester, Manchester Metropolitan University, Nottingham Trent University and City University London.

The university league manager at People and Planet, Hannah Smith, said Plymouth “understands the unique role” it plays in “creating social justice, tackling climate change and equipping graduates with the understanding and skills we need to build the fairer low carbon future we all want”.

People and Planet noted that more than half of all university senior management teams now receive an annual report evaluating their institution’s environmental policy, and a third of universities now support food action groups on campus.

However, some universities refused to answer questions about their progress on environmental sustainability.

The league table uses data on carbon reduction, student and staff engagement and ethical investment, among other factors, to determine the position of universities. 

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Reader's comments (2)

Great to see @uniofbeds #divest. You can see the full results of this years People & Planet League here: http://peopleandplanet.org/university-league/2015/tables
Knee jerk populism/tokenism wins the day. But no surprise from Rammell, the archetypal Labour apparatchik.

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