January 22, 2015

First Swedish university divests from fossil fuels

Gothenburg, Sweden — Chalmers University of Technology has become the first Swedish academic institution to divest its assets in fossil fuels, worth about SEK 5 million (approx. €530,000). The announcement comes two days after the University of Bedfordshire in the UK announced a new ethical investment policy that excludes fossil fuel companies. [1]

John Holmberg, vice president and professor of energy and environment at Chalmers explains, “Apart from the fact that fossil fuel investments are financially risky given how much fossil fuels must stay in the ground, there’s a stronger reason to divest. We need to redirect our investments to developments we believe in and make sure the energy transition is carried out as quickly as possible.”

“When the Apartheid regime fell in South Africa, universities were part of driving that change by divesting and thus removing their support from companies operating in South Africa. Investments can be a key factor for change, this we know,” Holmberg continues.

Chalmers interim executive director Stefan Johnsson says, “This is an important decision for us. It’s difficult to teach sustainability and not live up to it ourselves.”

Chalmers follows in the footsteps of the Church of Sweden [2] and the City of Örebro [3], joining the fastest growing divestment movement worldwide. [4] Jönköping University also took a stand against investments in fossil fuels. The university adopted a new investment policy in December that excludes coal, oil and gas from its direct investments, with a stated intention to expand this policy to indirect investments as well.

Public institutions around Sweden and the globe will come under pressure to stop funding an industry whose business model is incompatible with a livable planet on 13-14 February for Global Divestment Day. Around 80 percent of the coal, oil and gas reserves of the world’s top 200 fossil fuel companies are unburnable to contain global warming below 2 ℃. Earlier this month new research by University College London (UCL) reaffirms that over 80% of coal, 50% of gas and 30% of oil reserves are ‘unburnable’ under the goal to limit global warming to no more than 2 ℃. [5]

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Contact:

Olivia Linander, 350.org Sweden Divestment Organiser, [email protected], +46 738 226 906

Melanie Mattauch, 350.org Europe Communications Coordinator, [email protected], +49 151 5812 0184

Additional quotes:

Peter Selberg, a student at Chalmers Technical University and involved in Chalmers Students for Sustainability applauds the move: “This decision makes me proud to be a student here. It’s wonderful to see the school take responsibility on societal and climate issues.”

Chalmers executive director Stefan Johnsson says, “We’re taking this step not only out of a concern for the environment. It is also important from a wider ethical point of view. Today we choose to divest from fossil fuels – but we will build on this work when it comes to other unsustainable companies.”

 

Notes to editor

[1] Press release: University of Bedfordshire commits to not invest in the fossil fuel industry (January 20, 2015)

[2] Press release: Church of Sweden announces its investments are now fossil free (September 23, 2014)

[3] Press release: Örebro first Swedish city to divest from fossil fuels (October 14, 2014)

[4] Full list of divestment commitments: https://gofossilfree.org/commitments/

[5] For more information on UCL’s research: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30709211

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