Environmentalists have welcomed the decision by the University of Edinburgh to commit to divesting from all fossil fuel companies by 2021. The decision has been taken by the University Court in response to years of campaigning by students, staff and alumni, led by People & Planet Edinburgh.

According to the University their funds are valued at over £1 billion, making them the most wealthy university in the UK to fully divest from fossil fuels.

The decision follows Edinburgh University’s 2016 commitment to become carbon neutral by 2040 and last year’s announcement that it had invested £60 million in sustainable water, food, and renewable energy technologies.

Friends of the Earth Scotland Divestment Campaigner Ric Lander commented,

“Congratulations to the campaigners who have secured this fantastic victory through their hard work, creativity and commitment. Their victory will give inspiration to those campaigning for climate justice in Scotland and around the world.

“Climate change is already affecting millions of people as rising seas and more extreme weather destroys lives and livelihoods. Fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis and the University of Edinburgh’s decision to free their endowment fund from this industry is a truly significant step.”

People & Planet Edinburgh spokesperson Paula Lacey said:

“People and Planet Edinburgh has been fighting for divestment for years, with a huge amount of hard work and support from student and local activists.

“This announcement has been a long time coming and we are overjoyed that the University has finally come round. Now it’s time for us to hold them to their promise to divest within the time frame established, and to ensure that the endowment fund is never invested in the fossil fuel industry again.”

Data released in November 2017 showed that Scottish Council Pension Funds invest £1.8 billion in fossil fuels. The City of Edinburgh manages the Lothian Pension Fund, which still has over £100 million invested in fossil fuels.

FoES and others have been calling for local Councillors, who help manage these funds, to stop backing fossil fuel companies. Lander continued,

“Seven Scottish institutions have now committed to completely divest from fossil fuels. The University of Edinburgh’s actions make clear that investors can take bold and clear action to tackle climate change, that it’s consistent with Scotland’s wider efforts to phase out fossil fuel cars and ban fracking, and that now is the right time to back a fossil free future.”

Notes to Editors

  1. University of Edinburgh announcement (5th Feb 2018) https://www.ed.ac.uk/news/2018/next-step-towards-low-carbon-future
  2. Revealed: £1.8 Billion Council stake in fossil fuels undermines Scottish climate effort (November 2017)
  3. Following significant student pressure, the University of Edinburgh pledged to end its investments in coal and tar sands – but stopped short of divesting from all fossil fuels (May 2015) https://foe.scot/press-release/edinburgh-university-concedes-to-campaigner-pressure-on-coal-and-tar-sands-investments/
  4. Free to use photos to accompany this story can be found at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/friendsoftheearthscotland/galleries/72157692337966634/?rb=1
  5. People & Planet Edinburgh are a student group campaigning on human rights, world poverty and the environment. Their campaign website can be found here: https://investethically.wordpress.com/
  6. In Scotland the Universities of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian, Abertay, West of Scotland and Queen Margaret, along with the United Reform Church, have committed to fully divest from fossil fuels with others making partial commitments. Globally over 800 organisations have made commitments, to see the full list visit www.gofossilfree.org/commitments
  7. Friends of the Earth Scotland is
    * Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
    * An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
    * Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 75 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.