University of Glasgow pulls investment for fossil fuels

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The University of Glasgow has become the first in the UK to commit to taking its money out of fossil fuels.

A decision was made by the university court on Wednesday which will see about £18million currently invested in fossil fuels reallocated over the next 10 years.

The process, which is known as “divestment”, has come under scrutiny as the university currently provides a number of degrees which relate to the oil and gas sector.

Degree options include aeronautical engineering, earth sciences and mechanical engineering.

University bosses have said the commitment will be subject to reassurance that the financial impact for the university is acceptable.

But collaborative work done with companies from the oil and gas sector is readily available to view on the university’s website.

The vice president of natural gas exploration projects for Royal Dutch Shell,Jacqueline Redmond,has previously spoken to students on the Master of Administration course (MBA), while Statoil has provided funding for a PHD studentship on persistent organic pollutants.

Grant funding has also been awarded to the engineering department of the university by Conoco Philips for research into the ultrasonics in enhanced recovery of oil.

Advertising on the university website has also been provided by both Total and Statoil.

Green campaigners have welcomed the move and said they hoped it would set an example to other institutions to follow suit.

Glasgow joins 13 American universities and many other institutions who together have pledged to withdraw more than $50bn in assets from the fossil fuel industry.

The decision was made by the university after a consultation by an independent working group taking evidence from the Climate Action Society and the university investment committee.

David Newall, secretary of the university court, said: “The university recognises the devastating impact that climate change may have on our planet, and the need for the world to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

“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.”

Glasgow University Climate Action Society said the move makes the University of Glasgow the first academic institution in Europe to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

Society spokeswoman Sophie Baumert said it was a major victory for the UK and Europe’s “rapidly growing” fossil fuel divestment movement.

She said: “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.”

“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.”

A spokesman for the University of Glasgow said: “As an institution, the University of Glasgow is committed to minimising our carbon footprint; currently approximately 80% of our electricity is purchased on a green tariff and we are continuing to work on reducing our dependence on non-renewable energy in the coming years.

“To this end we are engaged in a number of major projects designed to lower our carbon footprint. We are currently implementing the largest ever infrastructure project undertaken at the University to install a new combined heating and power system which will mean carbon reductions in excess of 2000 TCO2 per year.

“We are also a world leader in research aimed at reducing the environmental impact of energy production, this includes work targeting alternative energy production and increasing the efficiency of current fossil fuel use.”