The University of Glasgow to divest from fossil fuel industry

Published

Imants Latkovskis

GUCA on library hill

The University of Glasgow Court has voted in favour of divesting from the fossil fuel industry, making it the first University in the UK to divest.

The University plans to dispose of its investments in the fossil fuel industry within a period of ten years. The University is also expected to consider investment in renewable energy industries, although there is no commitment to invest in renewable energy.

Court has also decided a biannual evaluation which will be put in place to assess the policy’s financial financial and ‘other’ impacts.

There will be an immediate cap on fossil fuel industry investment at 10% of the University’s portfolio. The University’s current fossil fuel investments are less than 10% of it’s portfolio.

The anticipated court decision followed a campaign headed by the Glasgow University Climate Action (GUCA), a student society that has petitioned for divestment in recent months.

University of Glasgow currently has over £18 million of investment in fossil fuel companies, such as Shell, BP and Chevron. GUCA, along with the SRC, have argued that these investments undermine the University’s commitment to tackling climate change and are not in line with its Policy on Socially Responsible Investment.

In April of 2014, the Court set up a working group tasked with examining both the financial implications of divestment, as well as its relation to the University’s values. The Committee recommended full divestment as well as re-investment in renewable energy industries.

An online petition set up by GUCA argues: “the University has both a moral and a financial duty to its students to withdraw its investments from the fossil fuel industry. The moral case is clear: if it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage.

“Furthermore, fossil fuels are a dangerous investment. The value of companies like Shell, BP and Chevron is based on the assumption that they will be able to dig up and sell their fossil fuel reserves. But if the world gets serious about stopping climate change, that would mean keeping 80% of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground, and the assumption that forms the basis for these companies’ value will be undermined.”

Opponents of divestment have argued that the decision would only have symbolic value given the relatively small amount of the University’s investment.

Breffni O’Connor, President of the SRC says: “The SRC is delighted with the decision by University Court to divest from the Fossil Fuel industry. This decision is a testament to the strength of effective student activism. This campaign by the SRC and the Glasgow University Climate Action Society has concentrated on securing environmental and financial sustainability for the University community and wider society for generations to come.

“This historic decision fits well with the University’s role in society as a forum of debate a vehicle of social progress and an institution which acts on its green values rather than paying lip service to them.”

The Court’s decision makes the University of Glasgow the first University in the UK to divest from fossil fuel.