Glasgow ‘first university in Europe’ to divest from fossil fuel firms

The University of Glasgow has become the first university in Europe to commit to divesting from the fossil fuel industry, campaigners have said.

October 8, 2014

The Scottish institution said it had committed “to fully disinvesting from fossil fuel industry companies”, subject to reassurance that the financial impact for the university would be “acceptable”. Full divestment will mean the reallocation of around £18 million of investments, which will take place over a 10-year period.

In a statement, campaigners described the decision as “a major victory for the UK and Europe’s, rapidly growing fossil fuel divestment movement”.

“We are delighted that the University of Glasgow has decided to take a committed stance against climate change and cut its financial ties with the fossil fuel industry,” said Sophie Baumert, from the Glasgow University Climate Action Society. “This is huge step for the Fossil Free campaign in the UK and we hope that our university will serve as a role model for other universities.”

More than 1,300 Glasgow students took part in a campaign led by the society, which included freedom of information requests, banner drops, fake oil spills, flash mobs, and rallies.

In the week leading up to the decision, the university received hundreds of messages from students and the public urging them to divest. Glasgow joins 13 US institutions, including Stanford University, in committing to cease investing in the fossil fuel industry.

David Newall, secretary of the University of Glasgow Court, which voted in favour of divestment, said: “The university recognises the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

“Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption.”

According to the student action group People and Planet, Soas, University of London, became the first UK higher education institution to take action earlier this year by freezing new investments in the fossil fuel industry. It is expected to make a decision on full divestment in the next month.

Decisions are also imminent from a number of other institutions including the University of Edinburgh, which People and Planet says has conducted a university-wide student and staff consultation.

Overall, the group says universities in the UK invest an estimated £5.2 billion annually in the fossil fuel industry.

In June, a group of students delivered a petition containing 15,000 signatures to Universities UK calling for the higher education sector to stop investing in fossil fuels.

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