Students gather outside Central Management Group meeting to push for full divestment

Edinburgh students gathered yesterday outside Central Management Group meeting to push for full divestment

Students at the University of Edinburgh have learned from sources inside yesterday’s meeting that the university’s Central Management Group (CMG) received a recommendation for the university to divest from companies involved in the coal and tar sands extraction.

The recommendation would require Edinburgh University to divest from most large oil majors like BP, Shell and Total who all operate in the tar sands. It will be passed forward to the next meeting of the University Court in May where the recommendation is expected to be approved.

This is a significant step forward for the long-running Edinburgh People & Planet campaign for Edinburgh University to invest ethically – the university has the third largest endowment of all UK universities, worth £292 million or $430million (US).

Student campaigners from the People & Planet netework, who have been pushing for ethical investment for over 10 year, have said the recommendation does not go far enough.

Kirsty Haigh, Vice President Communities at NUS Scotland, said:

“It’s absolutely crucial that the university do no give into big fossil fuel companies and flout their moral obligations. Full divestment from fossil fuels is the only responsible action. The University shying away from this and choosing to not divest fully is continuing to fund climate chaos. Our futures are too important to be gambled away for university profit.”

A Fossil Fuels Review Group was established in response to the university’s public consultation on responsible investment which concluded in March 2014, in which the majority of respondents supported divestment from fossil fuels and arms.

Student die-in outside the Edinburgh University management group meeting yesterday

Student die-in outside the Edinburgh University management group meeting yesterday

Edinburgh students yesterday staged an oil spill and ‘die-in’ outside the CMG meeting, as students, staff and alumni at Harvard University in the United States are taking part in acts of civil disobedience for ‘Harvard Heat Week‘. Students across dozens of US campuses are escalating their campaigns and many are willing to risk arrest at Harvard this week to increase pressure on the university to cuts its ties with fossil fuel companies.

In the UK, decisions on fossil fuel divestment are now expected from UCL, University of London SOAS, Edinburgh, London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine, Oxford and Warwick over the coming months. Since October 2013, students in the People & Planet network have launched over 60 Fossil Free campaigns across the UK, engaging over 25,000 students. Last month, students at LSE and King’s College London included demands for fossil fuel divestment in their occupations of their universities.

Last summer, the University of London SOAS became the first UK university to take action, freezing new investments in the fossil fuel industry.   In October 2014, the Universities of Glasgow became the first university in Europe to divest, committing to remove £18 million worth of investments from the fossil fuel industry, and in January this year the University of Bedfordshire formalised a ban on fossil fuel investments as university policy, making a total of 21 universities that have divested internationally to date.

Miriam Wilson, Fossil Free Campaign Coordinator at People & Planet, said:

“If the university does actually divest from tar sands, they will be excluding every major oil company from their portfolio, including BP and Shell. Rejecting the dirtiest fossil fuels like coal and tar sands should just be the start. Oil and gas can’t be side-stepped. With divestment decisions expected from a number of presitigious universities over the coming months, the University of Edinburgh risks lagging behind if it does not divest from all fossil fuel companies.”



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