Edinburgh Uni backs down in the face of fossil fuel investment protests

Charlie Jeffery
Charlie Jeffery

Edinburgh University has announced that it is to do a dramatic u-turn and fully divest from three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers within the next six months.

The decision has been taken by the university’s investment committee and follows the end of a 10-day student occupation of one of its buildings in Chambers Street, which was sparked by a decision taken by the committee to maintain the institution’s financial concerns in the industry.

Welcoming the announcement, campaigners said it was a “big step forward” and represented a “significant shift” in the university’s position.

Professor Charlie Jeffery, the university’s senior vice-principal, said: “This decision underlines the recent commitment made by the university to address the challenge of climate change though its responsible investment policy.

“We will act quickly to reduce harmful emissions through divestment, reinforcing the work we do to act on climate change through research and teaching.”

Kirsty Haigh, student campaigner with the group Edinburgh People and Planet, said: “We are glad to see the university finally accept that there are lower-carbon alternatives to coal and tar sands, but it should have never taken this long.

“The university is pledging to ‘engage’ with these companies for the next four weeks before divesting, but has 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.”

Lang Banks, WWF Scotland director, said: “This is a welcome move by the university and we hope it marks the beginning of the end for their investments in climate-trashing fossil fuels.

“The students and staff are to be congratulated for their persistence on this important global issue, as I am in no doubt this would not have happened had it not been for their campaign.

“The science is clear: to protect our climate the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground.”

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