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Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement Spreads In UK

The University of Glasgow in Scotland has taken a page from Stanford and other US colleges. It has become the first EU academic institution to divest fossil fuel holdings. On Wednesday, the university court voted to divest $29 million (£18 million) of investments in the fossil fuel industry and freeze new investments across its entire endowment of $206 million (£128 million).

EU fossil fuel divestment: the University of Glasgow, Scotland (University of Glasgow).

The Glasgow University Climate Action Society worked on the fossil fuel divestment campaign for 12 months. Student groups at Imperial College and University College, London, are also demanding divestment. The University of Edinburgh and Oxford University and its colleges (which have larger investment funds than any other higher education institution in the UK) also have divestment on the table.

Activist Naomi Klein, author of five books including just-released New York Times bestseller This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, says of the fast-growing student climate action and fossil fuel divestment movement:

The institutions entrusted to prepare [students] for the future cannot simultaneously bet against their future by profiting from corporations that plan to burn [much] more carbon than our atmosphere can safely absorb…. They are sending an unequivocal message that fossil fuel profits are illegitimate—on par with tobacco and arms profits —and that brings us a significant step closer to demanding that our politicians sever ties with this rogue industry and implement bold climate policies based on a clear, progressive ‘polluter pays’ principle.’

American environmentalist Bill McKibben, founder of, called Glasgow’s move “a dramatic beachhead for the divestment movement,” signaling that Europe would be “just as powerful in this fight as Australia and North America…. 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 realizing it’s time to move on.”

As of September, over 800 large investors around the world have begun fossil fuel divestment, withdrawing a total of $50 billion (£31 billion) from petroleum investments over the next five years.

You can find more information about divestors at the gofossilfree website. It has a long list of and related information about commitments from many colleges and universities, cities, counties, religious institutions, and other groups. Notable among them: World Council of Churches (which represents over 7% of the world population and made its decision in July); the British Medical Association; cities of Seattle, San Francisco, Madison, Ann Arbor, Santa Fe, Providence, Dunedin (NZ), Boxtel (The Netherlands), and many others; and just last month, the wealthy Rockefeller Foundation, one of at least a dozen with deep pockets..

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Written By

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."


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