University court votes to divest £18m from fossil fuel industry in what campaigners call ‘dramatic beachhead’
The Guardian, Wednesday 8 October 2014 11.20 EDT
Glasgow University students hold a silent protest to raise awareness of the divestment from fossil fuels campaign. Photograph: Courtesy People & Planet
Glasgow University has become the first academic institution in Europe to divest from the fossil fuel industry, in a turning point for the British arm of the student-led global divestment movement.
After 12 months of campaigning, led by the Glasgow University Climate Action Society and involving over 1,300 students, the university court on Wednesday voted to begin divesting £18m from the fossil fuel industry and freeze new investments across its entire endowment of £128m.
Describing the result as “a dramatic beachhead for the divestment movement”, American environmentalist Bill McKibben said that it sent a powerful signal that Europe would be “just as powerful in this fight as Australia and North America”.
The founder of climate campaign group 350.org added: “That it comes from Glasgow, which has as much claim to birthing the industrial revolution as any city on Earth, makes it that much more special. Everyone from the Rockefellers on down is realising it’s time to move on.”
As of last month, more than 800 global investors – including foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers, religious groups, healthcare organisations, universities and local governments – have pledged to withdraw a total of $50bn (£31bn) from fossil fuel investments over the next five years as a result of the campaign which began on college campuses in the United States three years ago.