London, UK — The Fossil Free SOAS campaign group today welcomed news that the SOAS, University of London has agreed a temporary freeze to fossil fuel investments while they explore the possibilities for full divestment later this year. A final decision on divestment from fossil fuels is expected in November 2014.
SOAS is the first UK university to take this step, although Fossil Free campaigns are gathering momentum at universities across the country, with 46 People & Planet student groups calling for a stop to investments that promote climate change. The decision to review SOAS’ fossil fuel investments as part of the School’s ethical investment guidelines follows a campaign by over 500 students and staff, who say the investments go against everything that SOAS stands for. Approximately 7% of SOAS’ endowment portfolio is currently invested in fossil fuel companies.
Campaign spokesperson Julia Christian said:
“This is fantastic progress towards cleaning up SOAS’ fossil fuel investments – but it is only a first step. We want to see SOAS pull out of fossil fuels completely, and will be pushing for that decision at the next meeting of finance team in November.
“SOAS has a reputation for specialist teaching in African and Asian cultures, as well as running an increasing number of courses that focus on the environment and the problem of climate change. This is fundamentally at odds with investing in climate-polluting industries such as oil, gas and extractives – and now is the time to put a stop to this. We are delighted that the management is taking this issue so seriously.”
Paul Webley, Director of SOAS, said:
“SOAS is proud of its ethical investment policy, and it is right that we regularly review it and look at how it can be extended. The management of SOAS has a duty to ensure that the School’s investments deliver a financial return – but we also have a duty to invest responsibly.
The way human activity is changing our climate is a serious source of concern to staff and students at SOAS. This is increasingly reflected in our academic programmes. We have already made some progress in minimising the environmental impacts of our buildings and facilities. Now is the time to look at how these values may be extended to our financial investments.”
Though the university does not carry out research funded by fossil fuel companies, campaigners in the Fossil Free UK network hope that divestment at SOAS will help put pressure on other institutions, more ‘entrenched’ in the fossil fuel industry, to move in a similar direction. In the US, 13 colleges and universities have already made the decision to divest, including Stanford University, Unity College and Sterling College.
SOAS, University of London is a specialised college of London University with over 5,000 students.
Rebecca Newsom, Fossil Free SOAS, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 7715 563 391
Andrew Taylor, People & Planet Communications Manager, email@example.com, +44 1865 264 184
Melanie Mattauch, 350.org Europe Communications Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org, +49 151 5812 0184
NOTES TO EDITORS
- Fossil Free SOAS is a campaign group of students and staff at SOAS, University of London, calling for divestment from fossil fuels (the campaign began in Autumn 2013)
- SOAS will make a final decision about fossil fuel divestment in November 2014
- More information about the growing fossil fuel divestment movement across UK universities can be found here: http://peopleandplanet.org/fossil-free and https://gofossilfree.org/uk/
- More information about the growing fossil fuel divestment movement globally can be found here: https://gofossilfree.org/
- A petition calling on SOAS management to divest can be found here: http://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/soas-divest-from-fossil-fuels