July 8, 2015

University of Warwick commits to divest from fossil fuels

Campaigners celebrate as two year campaign to move Warwick’s investments out of coal, oil and gas achieves victoryWarwick celebrate

Today, the University of Warwick has committed to investing its money in funds that exclude fossil fuel companies. Campaigners rejoiced as Warwick followed Glasgow, SOAS and Bedfordshire in divesting from fossil fuels. Oxford, Edinburgh and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Disease have also pledged to rid themselves of some of their investments but have yet to commit to fully divest from fossil fuels.

Members from University Council met today in the Shard, London to make a strategic decision on continuing to invest in fossil fuels. The University of Warwick currently holds a £14 million endowment, £1 million of which is represented by oil, gas and coal companies. During the course of their three-hour meeting, a motion was passed through Council committing the university to replace existing funds with investments in fossil-free index related funds. They have pledged to move their money as soon as such a fund becomes available. It is expected that fossil-free funds will be available within a year.

Dan Goss, from Fossil Free Warwick University, said: “We are all delighted that Warwick has brought its investments in line with its professed values, and heeded the call of the democratic majority. This decision testifies to two long years of campaigning by Fossil Free Warwick. We’re overjoyed by this victory – but it’s just the beginning. Divestment is the spring board for a united front against the fossil fuel industry globally and on campuses.”

Campaigners from the group Fossil Free Warwick University, a local offshoot of the national organisation People and Planet [1], have spent the past two years lobbying their university’s financial managers to fully divest from fossil fuels, and welcome these steps to break ties with some of the world’s biggest polluters. 

Since the formation of the group in 2013, 65% of the student population has voted in favour of fossil fuel divestment [2]. The campaign has also submitted letters from all of the Students Union’s sabbatical officers [3], 100 members of staff, and approximately 1,500 students [4], calling for the institution to take a stand against climate change and divest from fossil fuels. 

Andrew Taylor, Fossil Free Campaigns Manager at People & Planet said: “Warwick’s decision is another clear signal that any university that doesn’t divest is going against the tide. Any institution with a moral compass should be turning their backs on the fossil fuel industry now.”

The University of Manchester is also expected to make a decision on divestment today. The University of Manchester currently invests over £9.5 million in shares in six of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies, including BP, Shell and Glencoe Xstrata.

Yesterday around 100 Manchester University staff including author Jeanette Winterson and the outspoken Professor of Energy and Climate Change Kevin Anderson wrote an letter saying: “We believe this is a tremendous opportunity for the University of Manchester to demonstrate decisive and forward-thinking leadership on one of the most pressing global issues of our time… We hope you will give serious consideration to our students’ demands that the university commits to freezing new investment in fossil fuel companies and divesting within five years from the top 200 fossil fuel companies that control the majority of carbon reserves.”

Fossil fuel divestment is the fastest-growing divestment movement in history and is continuing to gain momentum [5]. Around 200 institutions globally, with a combined asset size of over $50 billion, have committed to divest, including the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation, the British Medical Association, and the Church of England [6].

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Fossil Free Warwick blog: https://fossilfreewarwick.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/we-won-warwick-divests/

Contacts:

Connor Woodman, +447954402113, c.d.w.woodman@warwick.ac.uk

Sophie Monk, +447703780565, sophiemonk0@gmail.com

Notes

[1] People & Planet is Britain’s largest student network campaigning on environmental justice and human rights coordinates the UK university fossil fuel divestment movement. Over the past 18 months, students in the People & Planet network have launched over 65 Fossil Free campaigns across the UK, engaging over 30,000 students. See http://peopleandplanet.org/fossil-free

[2] Results of SU referendum 2014 http://www.warwicksu.com/democracy/asm/results/2014t2/

[3] Sabbatical Officers’ letter https://www.facebook.com/fossilfreewarwick/photos/pb.157830037759073.-2207520000.1436301267./248294138712662/?type=3&theater

[4] https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/fossil-free-warwick-university

[5] http://www.arabellaadvisors.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Measuring-the-Global-Divestment-Movement.pdf

[6] For a full list of all the institutions that have divested, see http://gofossilfree.org/commitments/

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