Following an intensive two weeks of campaigning pressure from students, staff, alumni across the world, the University of Edinburgh has announced an update to its investment policy (1).
The University said today it is “writing to three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers to inform them that it intends to fully divest from their activities within the next six months.” (1) The University has said they will give the companies four weeks to respond, but has not detailed what sort of response from the companies would change the University's intention to divest.
Kirsty Haigh, Edinburgh People & Planet member said: “We are glad to see the University finally accept that there are lower carbon alternatives to coal and tar sands, but it should never have taken this long.
“The University is pledging to ‘engage’ with these companies for the next 4 weeks before divesting, but have refused to outline what that means.
“These companies pour millions into greenwashing and it is crucial that the University is not bought over by this, and that they follow through and fully divest from them.”
Outrage at the limited ambition of their announcement on 12 May (2), which gave no clear timetable for divestment, drove students to spend 10 days in occupation of the university's finance department. On Sunday they dropped banners from Edinburgh monuments and have blockaded access to administrative buildings. This morning 300 Alumni pledged to boycott donations if the university did not commit to divest (3).
Ric Lander, Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “To avoid catastrophic climate change we know that 80% of fossil fuels reserves must be kept in the ground. The investment decisions of Scottish institutions will play a part in shaping our future and they must be held accountable for the impacts of their investment policy.
“Today's announcement suggests Edinburgh University is listening but students, staff and alumni are unlikely to be reassured until they take the final step to divest from fossil fuel companies.”
“Coal and tar sands cause enormous environmental destruction wherever they are extracted and are incompatible with a low-carbon future. We urgently need a transformation of our energy system to clean, reliable renewables.”
Since student group People & Planet began their campaign (4) three years ago Edinburgh's £298 million endowment fund has drawn criticism for its significant investments in fossil fuel companies.
The University of Glasgow pledged to divest its entire endowment from fossil fuels in October 2014 and last month the United Reform Church in Scotland also divested.
Nobel Prize winner Graciela Chichilnisky, and MSPs John Finnie and Alison Johnstone joined the occupation, as did Friends of the Earth Scotland Director Richard Dixon. Senior figures such as author Naomi Klein also supported the occupation.
Friends of the Earth Scotland is campaigning for Scottish funds to divest from fossil fuels..
Ric Lander concluded:
"Now is the time for the Scottish Government to give leadership on how public money can be invested in a way that works against climate change and supports a healthy future for everyone.”
Notes to Editors
Photos of the last two weeks of action at Edinburgh can be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ricjl/sets/72157650421883204
1. 'Divestment intent signalled', 26 May 2015, University of Edinburgh: http://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2015/fossilfuelsupdate-260515
2. 'Edinburgh University Fails Divestment Examination', Friends of the Earth Scotland, 12 May 2015: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/edinburgh-uni-fails-divestment
3. A copy of the alumni letter and signatures is available here:
4. Edinburgh University People & Planet campaign website: https://investethically.wordpress.com/
5. Friends of the Earth Scotland petition calling for fossil-free pensions in your local government area http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/divestpensions
5. Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 74 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups. www.foe-scotland.org.uk