Glasgow: first European university to divest from fossil fuels

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The University of Glasgow has become the first university in Europe to commit to fully disinvesting from fossil fuel industry companies.

"Full divestment will mean the reallocation of around £18 million of current investments over a 10-year period," the university said.

The decision was made after a vibrant 12-month long campaign, led by the Glasgow University Climate Action Society and involving more than 1,300 students.

Following a consultation period in which an independent working group took evidence from the Glasgow University Climate Action Society and the University Investment Committee, the university court voted in favour of disinvesting from the fossil fuel sectors.

David Newall, secretary of the University of Glasgow Court, said: "The University recognises the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption."

The move bears an additional symbolic tone given that Glasgow in the early 18th century was a burgeoning industrial city leading the industrial revolution. Glasgow’s economy today, though, is mainly based on services, although it has become a keen research hub for renewable energy technologies.

Disinvestment from fossil fuels movement

There is no doubt Glasgow University took the lead in the U.K. and Europe in aligning its position with a steadily growing number of students demanding their institutions to turn away from fossil fuel investments.

Oxford University, for instance, has the largest endowment wealth of any university in the U.K., around £3.8 billion, and is currently undergoing a staff-only consultation after a large number of its students and academics demanded the divestment of the the institution’s funds.

In the U.S., the trend has rather become an established movement followed by 13 universities, including prestigious Stanford, which has committed to partially divest from the fossil fuel sectors.

Last week too, the council of the Australian National University in Canberra agreed to commence divestment of stocks in seven companies following an independent review.

If John D. Rockefeller were alive today, "as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy," said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, last month when announcing the Fund’s move away from oil and other fossil fuels and towards clean energy.

The disinvestment campaign will most certainly lead to more thrilling announcements soon.