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Environment

Edinburgh University Just Divested From All Fossil Fuels

Edinburgh University has become the latest — and largest — university in the UK to divest from fossil fuels — which means it has committed not to invest in fossil fuels including coal, oil, and gas holdings. 

It’s a big win for the nation-wide student movement which is putting pressure on universities to be environmentally-friendly, both in their day-to-day public image as well as in their more private investments. 

Edinburgh, which announced that it would completely divest on Monday, is now the largest university fund in the UK to make the pledge.

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Its £1 billion endowment fund is the third largest in the UK, behind Cambridge and Oxford, according to the Guardian. But both Oxford and Cambridge have so far only partially divested, cutting out investments in coal and tar sands. 

So far, 61 UK universities and two Irish have ditched fossil fuel investments entirely — a total endowment wealth of over £10.7 billion. 

Tara Wight, campaigner at People and Planet Edinburgh and also a PhD student, said the organisation is “thrilled” that the university has “finally realised the importance of divestment, and decided to match their investment portfolio with the environmentally friendly image they present to the public.”

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People and Planet, which is the largest network of students in the UK campaigning for social and environmental justice, is one of the leading voices in the Fossil Free campaign. 

You can find out how your university is linked to fossil fuels, and whether or not it has already committed to divest, here.

Edinburgh announced in 2015 that it would be divesting from the most polluting companies — those linked to coal and tar sands — but it didn’t divest completely at the time. 

Now, however, it will sell the last £6.3 million worth of its fossil fuel holdings, in Total, BG Group, and Atlas Copco, according to the Guardian

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The university’s senior vice-principal, Professor Charlie Jeffery, said: “Climate change is one of the world’s biggest challenges. Over the past few years, we have thought hard about how to respond to that challenge. This change in our investment strategy is a vital step on that journey.”

Edinburgh University has put more than £150 million over the past seven years into low carbon technology, climate-related research, and businesses working to benefit the environment. It is also reported to be aiming to be carbon neutral by 2040.

But Edinburgh’s decision to divest is the latest in a string of victories for the student-led campaign effort.

The first university to fully divest was Glasgow University, in October 2014. Other campaign highlights included November 2015 to 2016, when 14 universities committed to divest in the 12 month period. 

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And August 2017 was another bumper month, when nine universities signed the organisation’s Fossil Free Declaration to commit to never invest in fossil fuel companies. 

The University of Sussex also joined the ranks of divested universities this week, and now invests its money instead in Liontrust’s ‘Sustainable Futures Managed Fund’ after a 4-year student campaign.

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, which include action on climate change and creating sustainable cities and communities. You can join us by taking action here