Brilliant news, just in. The first Swedish university has announced it is divesting from coal, oil and gas!

Chalmers University of Technology has long been a university showing leadership on sustainability – and now they’re selling assets in fossil fuels worth almost 5 million SEK.

The Swedish divestment movement is gaining momentum rapidly and making an impact on the climate response from its universities. Jönköping University also recently made changes to their investment policy, and we’re hoping that they and many other Swedish universities will follow Chalmers’ lead in 2015.
Swedish universities are respected institutions whose opinions and decision carry weight. A clear stance on fossil fuel divestment by them and other public institutions is a key step in dismantling the fossil fuel industry’s reputation.

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 underground, 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.”

For Chalmersexecutive director Stefan Johnsson this is an important first step but there’s more to be done:

“This is an issue that’s been discussed for a long time at Chalmers, and it doesn’t just concern environmental issues but is also important from a wider ethical point of view. Today we choose to divest from fossil fuel companies – but we will follow up this work also when it comes to other unsustainable companies.”

Chalmers’ decision is yet another sign that the topic of fossil free investments is becoming more mainstream. Peter Selberg, a student at Chalmers University of Technology and involved with Chalmers Students for Sustainability, said:

“I’m very happy about this decision from the Foundation – it makes me proud to be a student here. It’s wonderful to see the school take larger responsibility, also on societal and climate issues, and isn’t content with only being a place for education and research.”

Though 5 million SEK is a small portion of Chalmers foundation’s total assets, it sends a clear signal to other investors. Stefan Johnsson wants to see more transparency across th the investment sphere in the future:

Making this decision is a challenge since transparency is lacking today. In the long run, I think we’ll see new regulation take shape around this issue, demanding that e.g. banks increase their transparency. This was still an important decision for us to make – it’s difficult to teach sustainability and then not live up to what we teach.

As voices are heard louder and louder at universities, let’s continue to build momentum – join us in making this movement even stronger during Global Divestment Day On February 13-14th, thousands of Swedes will be joining people all over the world in calling on their institutions to show real climate leadership like Chalmers has now done.

It’s still only January 2015 but already this win puts the Fossil Free movement on course for more significant successes in the year ahead.