Edinburgh University considers divesting fossil fuel holdings

Campaign to stigmatise oil, gas and coal companies could gain another backer as top Scottish institution considers ditching polluters

(Pic: Magnus Hagdorn/Flickr)

(Pic: Magnus Hagdorn/Flickr)

By Ed King

Edinburgh University could be the latest top academic institution to join the growing fossil fuel divestment campaign later on Monday.

Its governing body is set to meet in the afternoon and discuss the future of its £291 million endowment, an estimated £9 million of which is invested in the likes of BP, Shell and BHP Billiton.

Last month university managers recommended it ditch companies involved in the extraction of coal and oil from tar sands, a hugely carbon intensive process.

In recent months Glasgow University, SOAS and UCL have announced plans to ditch holdings in fossil fuel companies – joining a global movement aimed at stigmatising the oil, gas and coal industries.

The campaign has gained the support of UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, the head of the World Bank, Jim Kim and the Church of England.

Analysis: What has the divestment movement achieved so far?

Last week global levels of carbon dioxide – the most common greenhouse gas – passed the 400 parts per million level, a sign of the amount of fossil fuels used by humans over the past 150 years.

Scientists warn time to limit dangerous levels of warming is running out. If temperatures rose 2C above pre industrial levels poor countries will be placed at “very high risk” said a recent UN report.

Kirsty Haigh, an Edinburgh student campaigner linked to the People & Planet campaign group, said a positive decision from the university’s governing body would encourage others to follow.

“If Edinburgh decides to divest on Monday, it will send an important signal to other universities in Scotland and across the UK that investing in this rogue industry is morally unjustifiable,” she said.

“The university needs to listen to the voices of its students, academics and alumni who are demanding it takes this vital action on climate change.”

Students and staff are set to stage a series of demonstrations throughout Monday urging the university to ditch its holdings in the world’s top 200 fossil fuel companies.

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