100 UK universities pledge to divest from fossil fuels

This article was written by Helena Horton and originally published in The Guardian on October 27, 2022.

One hundred universities in the UK have pledged to divest from fossil fuels, the Guardian can reveal.

This equates to 65% of the country’s higher education sector refusing to make at least some investments in fossil fuel companies, and endowments worth more than £17.6bn now out of reach for the corporations.

This huge sum is mostly owing to the significant investment portfolios of the University of Edinburgh, as well as the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and their constituent colleges, all of which have at least partially divested.

Coventry University has become the 100th, and on Thursday announces its divestment of a £43.6m investment portfolio from all fossil fuel companies after a nine-month student campaign.

Riz Dhanani, the treasury manager at the university said: “Coventry University has been actively developing its ethical investment framework over the last few years with regular consultation and input from staff and students.

“We are now proud to take our sustainability agenda one step further in the investment arena by committing to exclude fossil fuel extractor companies from our investments, something that we were already engaged in with our ethical fund managers but have now formally incorporated into our treasury and investment policy.

“We will continue to invest in sustainable funds that strive to deliver better outcomes for society through their investments and I hope that making our pledge will encourage other institutions to follow suit.”

The Fossil Free campaign, active since 2013, has been led by students, who say it should not be acceptable for education and research institutions to invest in companies responsible for global heating.

Students have undertaken a range of campaign methods, from petitions gathering thousands of signatories, lobbying university management, political education and non-violent direct action, including occupying university buildings.

The first institution to announce its was divesting was the University of Glasgow, in 2014. Now most UK universities have publicly said they will not fund fossil fuels. The campaign will pressure the remaining 53 universities to divest.

Laura Clayson, a campaign manager at People and Planet, said: “It is always incredible to witness a university reject the fossil fuel industry, but especially so when it follows the work of phenomenal student organisers and brings us to such a milestone announcement. This is a win for all of those who have organised against the fossil fuel industry’s business model of deception, dispossession and destruction.”

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