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Over a Quarter of UK Universities Committed to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Today, it was announced that UK universities are leading the way on fossil fuel divestment globally. New research conducted by People & Planet as part of their University League shows that 43 higher education institutions have committed to exclude the fossil fuel industry from around £10.7bn of endowment wealth, overtaking other EU countries, the US and Australia.

Amoge Ukaegbu, Campaigns and Movement Building Co-ordinator, People & Planet said: ‘UK universities have been world leaders on cutting-edge research into climate solutions. They have a particular responsibility in shaping our future society’s sustainability, so it’s not surprising that they have realised that to safeguard civilisation, they must turn their backs on the morally and financially bankrupt industry. By severing their ties with fossil fuel companies, universities are standing in solidarity with the communities across the world that are on the frontline of fossil fuel extraction and climate change. The Fossil Free movement has grown exponentially with students and universities at its core, pioneering a new way for public institutions to be truly independent of the fossil fuel economy and in doing so, trailblazing a path for wider society to follow.’

In what campaigners claim is 'a game-changing announcement' it was revealed today that 16 new UK universities have committed to divest. Eleven of these committed to divest fully from fossil fuels: University West of Scotland, Nottingham Trent University, University of Kent, University of Lincoln, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, University of Abertay Dundee, University of Worcester, University of Arts Bournemouth, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Bournemouth University, and Manchester Metropolitan University. The five other either committed divest to or divested via their fund manger CCLA from coal and tar sands: University of Sussex, University of Gloucestershire, Aston University, Goldsmiths University of London, and University of Greenwich.

These institutions join twenty seven other UK universities that had already ruled out investing in coal and tar-sands or all fossil fuels. The UK took a lead in Europe when the University of Glasgow became the first in Europe to divest from fossil fuels. Since, student campaigns have convinced a succession of world-leading universities to follow suit, including the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University College London, Kings College London, the University of Edinburgh and London School of Economics. This represents over a quarter of UK universities and places UK universities ahead of their global rivals. 

People & Planet's University League released today ranks 150 UK universities on their environmental and social justice performance. Although it shows a significant jump in divestment commitments with 4 of the top 5 now all committed to divest full from fossil fuels, its results also show that under a quarter of universities are now on track to meet their 2020 carbon reduction targets, for the first time in it's 10 years of publication. Campaigners blame government for 'hampering' action on climate change.

Andrew Taylor, Co-Director Campaigns and Communications Manager said: 'UK universities are now world leaders in divestment. We have an advantage over our friends in the USA as the British public hasn't been targeted to the same extent by big-oil-funded climate denial. We don't have Trump for President but we still have our own less blatant problems with economic arguments delaying the urgent action needed, and a revolving door between government and the fossil fuel sector. The effects of this are highlighted in our University League research where we see a funding gap leading to under-performance on campus carbon.'

UK campaigners hope universities will 'raise their game' even further in the next six months, and that the majority of higher education institutions will have committed to divest by the end of the academic year. There are decisions expected soon at the University of Manchester, Durham University, University of Essex and University of Reading, and a further flurry in the new year.

There are currently over eighty campaigns in UK universities with students now targeting Barclays bank over their investments in fracking, the Dakota Access Pipeline and coal mining in Argentina, alongside their university-focused campaigns. Recently sixty bank branches faced protests from students and the wider public over Barclays' investments in Third Energy, the company looking to extract gas via hydraulic fracturing in controversial sites in the Yorkshire Dales, against a backdrop of strong local opposition.

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