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by Liam Kirkaldy
12 May 2015
Edinburgh University rejects calls to divest from fossil fuels

Edinburgh University rejects calls to divest from fossil fuels

The University of Edinburgh has angered environmental campaigners by rejecting calls to pull its investments from fossil fuels, saying it will instead “seek to change the behaviour of the companies in which it invests”.

In a statement released today, the University said it “does not see choices as limited to ‘no change’ or ‘pull out of all investments’.”

Instead the University will require companies to report on their emissions and how they relate to best performance in their sector.

It will then divest from companies if realistic alternative sources of energy are available and the companies involved are not investing in technologies that help address the effects of carbon emissions and climate change.

Friends of the Earth Scotland finance campaigner Ric Lander said: “The University has missed a clear opportunity to take a moral lead on tackling climate change and stand up for environmental justice.

“The University appears content to have its money invested in the world’s most polluting companies including Shell, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. These companies are oil drilling in the Arctic and mining coal in virgin rainforest. Any investment policy which continues to allow investment in such irresponsible companies is not fit for purpose.”

Meanwhile WWF Scotland director Lang Banks responded to voice his “disappointment” with the University’s reaction.

He said: “If it's not prepared to divest yet, then it’s vital that the University follows through on its promise to invest more in low-carbon technologies and become more engaged with those it invests in. Failure to do so would do nothing to advance the cause of addressing climate change.

“Despite this outcome, congratulations should go those students and academics that pushed for Edinburgh University to put this important issue on the table for discussion. The fight to decarbonise investments here and around the world will continue.”

Senior Vice Principal Professor Charlie Jeffery said: “The decision outlines our commitment to use the leverage of our investments to bring about change that reduces carbon emissions in the fossil fuels and other sectors, and to press further with our world-leading research activities that actively contribute to the solution of problems arising from fossil fuel emissions and the identification of alternative technologies”

Alison Johnstone followed by branding the University’s decision as “weak”.

The Greens have campaigned for divestment in the past, pushing Finance Secretary John Swinney to increase the transparency of Scotland’s largest public pension investments, so local government employees can see where funds are directed.

She said: “We cannot afford to burn all the fossil fuels we have access to if we're serious about limiting climate change, so continuing to invest in such overvalued industries risks another economic crash. Glasgow University clearly understand this; it's frustrating to see Edinburgh clinging on, hoping to change the behaviour of the big businesses they're supporting. 

"The divestment movement is growing all the time, and today's announcement from Edinburgh University represents a missed opportunity. I urge them to rethink this weak policy and catch up with the likes of Glasgow."

The United Reform Church in Scotland and the University of Glasgow have both pulled investment from fossil fuels in response to the investment campaign.

Friends of the Earth Scotland is also calling on Scottish Local Government pension schemes to divest from fossil fuels.

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