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University of Warwick will divest

Campaigners celebrate end of two-year campaign to move Warwick’s investments out of coal, oil and gas
warwick uni Picture from MyGreenPod Sustainable News

Yesterday, the University of Warwick followed Glasgow, SOAS and Bedfordshire by committing to invest its money in funds that exclude fossil fuel companies.

Oxford, Edinburgh and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Disease have also pledged to rid themselves of some of their investments, but haven’t yet committed to a full divest from fossil fuels.

Uni has £1m in oil, gas and coal

Members from University Council met yesterday 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.

The Council has pledged to move the university’s money as soon as such a fund becomes available; it’s expected that fossil-free funds will be available within a year.

Breaking ties with polluters

Fossil fuel divestment is the fastest-growing divestment movement in history – and it continues 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.

‘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.’

Dan Goss, from Fossil Free Warwick University

Campaigners from the group Fossil Free Warwick University, a local offshoot of the national organisation People and Planet, have spent the last two years lobbying their university’s financial managers to divest from fossil fuels. They welcomed the university’s steps to break ties with some of the world’s biggest polluters.

A moral compass

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 Student Unions’ 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.

‘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.’

Andrew Taylor, Fossil Free Campaigns Manager at People & Planet

Manchester academics back students

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 open letter that positioned divestment as ‘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.’

The letter urged the university’s Board to give ‘serious consideration’ to the 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.’

Click here to find out more about People and Planet’s Fossil Free campaign.

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