The University of Edinburgh in Scotland has announced that it will completely divest from all investments in fossil fuels within three years in a move that goes a long way toward achieving the University’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040.
The move to divest is a big deal in more ways than one. Not only does the University of Edinburgh have the largest endowment fund of any university in Scotland but this will make the University’s endowment the largest to be free of fossil fuel investments in the UK. On top of that, and with more than a touch of irony, the University of Edinburgh was home to Joseph Black, the Professor of Chemistry between 1766 and 1799, who goes down in history as the man who discovered carbon dioxide (a point highlighted by Bill McKibben on Twitter).
The University’s decision to divest was approved by its ruling body, the University Court, and will be completed within three years.
It’s been a long road for the University of Edinburgh, having unfortunately earned the ire of many divestment campaigners back in the middle of 2015 when it refused to commit to total divestment, choosing instead to “use responsible investment to work with companies to reduce their emissions.” This was by no means the evil and cowardly decision many made it out to be at the time, but time has obviously etched its mark on the University’s decision-making process, to a point where its investment in fossil fuel funds has already dipped dramatically. In fact, according to the University, within weeks of its 2015 announcement, it withdrew £2.5 million worth of investments from companies involved in coal and tar sands.
According to the University, as of early 2018, less than 1% of the University’s endowment was invested in fossil fuels — specifically, direct investment was in only two firms for less than £5 million. Not bad, considering that the University’s total funds under management was around £1 billion.
“I’m very proud of the University’s decision. Climate change is one of the world’s biggest challenges,” said Professor Charlie Jeffery, Senior Vice-Principal, University of Edinburgh. “Over the past few years, we have thought hard about how to respond to that challenge. This change in our investment strategy is a vital step on that journey.”
“We are delighted with today’s announcement,” added Oliver Glick, Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Vice President Community. “Students and the Students’ Association have been passionate about removing fossil fuel investment from the University’s portfolio for many years. Through constructive engagement with the University, who have been open to our viewpoints, the work of student groups such as People and Planet, myself and my predecessors, along with many others has paid off.”