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University Of Edinburgh Backs Away From Fossil Fuel Divestment

The University of Edinburgh, in Scotland, has taken the middle road in the current global fossil fuel divestment campaign, stating that they do not see their choices limited to “no change” or “pull out of all investments.”

In a statement released Tuesday (PDF), the University of Edinburgh has revealed that “the University will use responsible investment to work with companies to reduce their emissions.” This has angered many who were calling on the university to shift approximately £9 million of investments out of fossil fuels and into clean energy. As the third largest university endowment in the UK (after Oxford and Cambridge University’s), many proponents hoped that a complete fossil fuel divestment would be in the offing, continuing a recent rend in the UK and across the pond in the US.

6443726423_d0f12e3e7c_zThe University’s decision has been met with scorn from students and campaigners.

According to Blue & Green Tomorrow, student lobbyists said that the university has “ignored calls from students, staff, and alumni to divest from fossil fuel companies,” as well as accusing the University of having a “conflict of interests.” BusinessGreen writer Jessica Shankleman quoted Miriam Wilson, a campaigner for People & Planet, as saying the University of Edinburgh has made “a very weak” commitment to divest.

However, despite the obvious negativity that was always going to surround such a ‘middle road’ decision, the University of Edinburgh is actually taking the most financially sound advice on offer.

A recent report from the Global Research division of Britain’s multinational banking and financial services company, HSBC, made it clear that there are not simply two options — continuing to invest in fossil fuels, or completely divesting. Specifically, HSBC analysts were quick to advise investors that there is a third option — the idea of holding onto stocks so that investors can “engage with companies and encourage best practice”.

Which is exactly the University of Edinburgh’s intention, as Senior Vice Principal Professor Charlie Jeffery states:

The decision outlines our commitment to use the leverage of our investments to bring about change that reduces carbon emissions in the fossil fuels and other sectors, and to press further with our world-leading research activities that actively contribute to the solution of problems arising from fossil fuel emissions and the identification of alternative technologies.

Image Credit: McEwan Hall, Bristo Square, University of Edinburgh, via dun_deagh, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

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