University of Warwick commits to fossil fuel divestment

Campaigners say suitable fossil-free investment funds should be available within a year

July 9, 2015
Oil horse head pump

The University of Warwick has committed to divesting from fossil fuels, if suitable investment funds become available.

The institution said it would look to move its investments to fossil free index-related tracker funds, which campaigners say should be launched within a year.

The decision was made at a meeting of the university council on 8 July, following a campaign for divestment that was backed by 65 per cent of voters in a student union referendum.

Sir George Cox, the chair of Warwick’s council, praised the student campaigners as “global citizens who seek to challenge all of us to consider and reflect on how we as a community can have an impact on this issue both together and as individuals”.

“Throughout the discussions leading up to today our students have presented clear arguments that they wanted council to hear and take seriously and they can be assured by the outcome of our meeting today that council has done so,” Sir George said.

In a statement, Warwick said that it generally held very few direct investments of any kind, and none in the 200 largest fossil fuel companies.

Instead, its strategy is to hold a portfolio of indirect index-related tracker funds.

The university said that there were currently no index-related funds available to UK investors that enable specific exclusion of fossil fuel companies and that “to replicate such funds with exclusions manually would be so prohibitively expensive that it would defeat the purpose of investing at all”.

But the university said it would annually review the “availability, financial viability and appropriateness” of fossil free index-related funds. If these conditions are met, the university would transfer its investments to these fossil free funds, the statement said.

Cat Turhan, the president of Warwick Students’ Union, said fossil free funds were expected to emerge “imminently, certainly within the year”.

“There is no question that this is a complete win for the Fossil Free Warwick campaign, and that it commits the university to full divestment in the near future,” she said.

Warwick becomes the seventh university in the UK to commit to some form of fossil fuel divestment, according to the campaign group People & Planet.

Most recently, author Jeanette Winterson was among 96 academics who called on the University of Manchester to divest.

A Manchester spokesman said the board of governors had considered a paper from campaigners on the issue on 8 July.

“This was discussed in detail and the board recommended that the board’s finance committee consider reviewing its current socially responsible investment policy in light of the paper and also requested a detailed paper from the university on these issues,” the spokesman said.

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (1)

Watch Fossil Free Warwick protesters march on the Shard last tuesday, before the University council's historic decision to divest: https://vimeo.com/132986064

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