May 26, 2015

University of Edinburgh concedes to divestment campaigners: Divestment from coal and tar sands likely within 6 months

Edinburgh, UK — In a big step forward for student campaigners, the University of Edinburgh announced today its intention to divest from coal and tar sands within the next six months. The news represents a significant shift in the university’s position, after it announced on Tuesday, 12 May that it would not divest from fossil fuels, sparking a student occupation of a university management building which lasted for more than 10 days.

The University announced today that it is writing to three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers to inform them that it intends to fully divest from their activities within the next six months, giving the three companies the opportunity to respond in the next four weeks. It is not know what, if any, response from companies might change their stated intent to divest.

Kirsty Haigh, student campaigner with Edinburgh People & Planet and NUS Scotland VP Communities, said: “We are glad to see the university finally accept that there are lower carbon alternatives to coal and tar sands, but it should have never taken this long. The university is pledging to ‘engage’ with these companies for the next four weeks before divesting, but have refused to outline what that means. These companies pour millions into greenwashing and it is crucial that the university is not bought over by this, and that they follow through and fully divest from them.”

The announcement follows a three-year campaign by Edinburgh People & Planet student group, which has been calling for the university to divest from the world’s top 200 fossil fuel companies. The University of Glasgow, Bedfordshire University and SOAS, University of London have all committed to divest from fossil fuels, whilst the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has committed to divest from coal, and Oxford University has spurned coal and tar sands investments.

Since Edinburgh University first announced its decision not to divest two weeks ago, students have staged dozens of actions including pickets, marches, rallies, banner-drops, die-ins and a ten-day occupation of the university’s central management building. The students have also received endorsements from environmental groups Friends of the Earth Scotland, World Wildlife Foundation Scotland and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, as well as from several MSPs and a Nobel laureate author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report to the Kyoto Climate Summit.

Over 40 civil society organisations, including many from the Global South, have signed an open letter which condemns the University of Edinburgh for its refusal to divest from fossil fuels [2] in response to an article written by the university’s senior vice principal published in the Guardian earlier this month [3]. Earlier today, 300 Edinburgh alumni have pledged to not donate to the university until it commits to fully divest from fossil fuels [4].

Miriam Wilson, Fossil Free campaign coordinator at People & Planet, said: “Companies involved in coal and tar sands extraction are irrevocably damaging our climate and attempts to engage with them to mitigate their climate impacts have failed. Eighty percent of coal reserves and all of the Canadian tar sands need to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. We urge the University of Edinburgh to go beyond today’s announcement and commit to full divestment within five years – nothing short of this is enough.”



Kirsty Haigh, student campaigner and NUS Scotland Vice President of Communities, +447950 671 772,

Eleanor Dow, student campaigner, +447770 433 737

Juliette Daigre, Fossil Free Campaign Manager, People & Planet, +441865 264 194,


[1] University of Edinburgh: ‘Divestment intent signalled‘, 26 May 2015

[2] The Guardian, ‘Why the University of Edinburgh must divest from all fossil fuels now‘, 24 May 2015

[3] The Guardian, ‘Why the University of Edinburgh will not divest from all fossil fuels‘, 12 May 2015

[4] 300 University Alumni withhold donations over fossil fuel investments

Notes to editor

  • People & Planet – Britain’s largest student campaigning organisation on world poverty, human rights and the environment – coordinates the UK fossil fuel divestment movement that is rapidly spreading across UK universities. People & Planet is campaigning to sever the ties between UK universities and the fossil fuel companies fuelling the climate crisis. Over 65 university divestment campaigns have been launched since October 2013.

  • Fossil Free is a global movement to push universities and other public institutions to divest from the 200 fossil fuel companies that hold the vast majority of the world’s oil, coal and gas reserves. Globally, more than 220 institutions have now made commitments to fossil fuel divestment, including faith organisations, pension funds, philanthropic foundations and local authorities. Full list of all the institutions that have divested available at Information on the growth of the divestment movement can be found in Measuring the Global Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement (2014) by Arabella Advisors:

  • UK universities invest an estimated £5.2billion annually in the fossil fuel industry (Knowledge and Power, 2013)

  • More information on the University of Edinburgh campaign so far can be found on their website: