University of Warwick divests from fossil fuels
The University of Warwick's University Council committed to divesting from fossil fuels, after two years of student and staff calls for the university to get out of coal, oil and gas.
Campaigners rejoice as Warwick University followed Glasgow, Bedfordshire, SOAS, Oxford, Edinburgh and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Disease to become the seventh university in the UK to pledge some form of fossil fuel divestment.
Dan Goss a student campaigner from Fossil Free Warwick University, said: “We are all delighted that Warwick has brought its investments in line with its professed values, and heeded the call of the democratic majority. This decision testifies to two long years of campaigning by Fossil Free Warwick. We’re overjoyed by this victory – but it’s just the beginning. Divestment is the spring board for a united front against the fossil fuel industry globally and on campuses.”
Members from University Council met yersterday in the Shard, London to make a strategic decision on continuing to invest in fossil fuels. The University of Warwick currently holds a £14 million endowment, £1 million of which is represented by oil, gas and coal companies. During the course of their three hour meeting, a motion was passed through Council committing the University to replace existing funds with investments in fossil-free index related funds. They have pledged to move their money within three years of such a fund becoming available. It is expected that fossil free funds will be available within a year.
Cat Turhan, Warwick SU President said in response to the universities statement: "Divestment is the act of moving your money away from the fossil fuel industry. Warwick's statement commits them to take up any financially viable fossil free fund that becomes available. These are expected to emerge imminently, certainly within the year, and Warwick's divestment would quickly follow. There is no question that this is a complete win for the Fossil Free Warwick campaign, and that it commits the University to full divestment in the near future."
Campaigners from the group Fossil Free Warwick University, a local offshoot of the national organisation People and Planet , have spent the past two years lobbying their University’s financial managers to fully divest from fossil fuels, and welcome these steps to break ties with some of the world’s biggest polluters.
Andrew Taylor Fossil Free Campaigns Manager at People & Planet said: “Warwick's decision is another clear signal that any university that doesn't divest is going against the tide. Any institution with a moral compass should be turning their backs on the fossil fuel industry now.”
Since the formation of the group in 2013, 65% of the student population has voted in favour of fossil fuel divestment. The campaign has also submitted letters from all of the Students Union’s sabbatical officers, 100 members of staff, and approximately 1,500 students , calling for the institution to take a stand against climate change and divest from fossil fuels.
Michael Niblett a member of staff from the Department for Caribbean Studies, said: “The university’s decision to divest from fossil fuels is hugely welcome. It represents both an important victory on the part of those campaigning for divestment and a significant step in the struggle to de-legitimize and ‘de-naturalize’ our addiction to fossil fuels. The upcoming U.N. climate change conference in Paris will, once again, seek to secure a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change from all nations. That such an agreement has still to be settled after years of prolonged negotiations is a stinging indictment of the failure of global leadership on this issue. Clearly it will be up to others, working at multiple scales through campaigns such as Fossil Free, to carry the fight and change the way individuals and institutions behave.”
The University of Manchester is also expected to make a decision on divestment today. The University of Manchester currently invests over £9.5 million in shares in six of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, including BP, Shell and Glencoe Xstrata.
Yesterday around 100 Manchester University staff including author Jeanette Winterson and the outspoken Professor of Energy and Climate Change Kevin Anderson wrote an letter saying: “We believe this is a tremendous opportunity for the University of Manchester to demonstrate decisive and forward-thinking leadership on one of the most pressing global issues of our time... We hope you will give serious consideration to our students’ demands that the university commits to freezing new investment in fossil fuel companies and divesting within five years from the top 200 fossil fuel companies that control the majority of carbon reserves.”
Fossil fuel divestment is the fastest-growing divestment movement in history and is continuing to gain momentum . Around 200 institutions globally, with a combined asset size of over $50 billion, have committed to divest, including the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the British Medical Association, and the Church of England .