The University of Glasgow on Wednesday became the first higher education institution in Europe to vote in favor of divesting its multimillion dollar endowment from the fossil fuel industry, in what student campaigners are hailing as a "huge step" for the climate movement.
"We are delighted that the University of Glasgow has decided to take a committed stance against climate change and cut its financial ties with the fossil fuel industry," said Sophie Baumert of Glasgow University Climate Action Society. "This is huge step for the Fossil Free campaign in the UK and we hope that our university will serve as a role model for other universities."
The University Court voted to withdraw the school's £128 million endowment after sustained pressure from a campus divestment campaign, which was launched over a year ago by the student-led Glasgow University Climate Action Society. Throughout its course, the campaign included participation from 1,300 students and faculty, who filed Freedom of Information requests, organized rallies, and staged creative direct actions—including flash mobs and banner drops, according to a statement from environmental group 350.org.
"The University recognizes the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels," said David Newall, Secretary of the University of Glasgow Court. "Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption."
Award-winning journalist Naomi Klein congratulated the university community on Twitter:
Contrats to Glasgow Uni on becoming the university in Europe to divest from fossil fuels. Another kind of independence!!— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) October 8, 2014
The University of Glasgow joins 13 U.S. universities that have agreed to divest from the fossil fuel industry, as well as other large institutions, including the World Council of Churches and the British Medical Association. Divestment campaigns are underway at numerous universities around the world, from South Africa to New Zealand to the Netherlands, and campaigners say the movement is rapidly growing.
Many hope the victory at the University of Glasgow will bolster similar campaigns at other United Kingdom educational institutions, including the University of Edinburgh and SOAS, University of London, which are both slated, in the near future, to make decisions about divestment.
"It’s time to stop profiting from wrecking the climate, whether you’re an institution with lots of money like Oxford or Edinburgh, or a world leader in climate research such as the University of East Anglia," said Andrew Taylor, Fossil Free UK campaign manager at student campaigning organization People & Planet. "Glasgow has helped make the moral case crystal clear and we expect more universities to very soon put their money where their research is."