Glasgow University: Leading the charge for divestment?

Tomorrow afternoon the University Court will meet to decide whether the University of Glasgow should get rid of its investments in the fossil fuel industry.

Glasgow University currently has over £18 million of its endowment fund invested in coal, gas and oil companies – a hefty figure that completely undermines the university’s commitment to tackle climate change. Divesting from the fossil fuel industry would see the university aligning with the values and aims set out by its Policy on Socially Responsible Investment, and would be a crucial step towards its target of cutting carbon emissions by eighty per cent over the next forty years.

Glasgow University Climate Action (GUCA) is at the forefront of the campaign and, alongside the SRC, has lobbied the University to reinvest in more sustainable industries. June of this year saw the Investment Advisement Committee – set up by the Court to consider the financial implications of divestment and whether it is in line with the university’s values – recommend full divestment of fossil fuel, as well as to re-invest in green industries where possible.  The vote tomorrow will see if the Council heed that advice.

If the motion passes, Glasgow would become the first university in the UK to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Critics have argued that a decision such as this would be no more than a symbolic gesture – that Glasgow is only a small player. But the demand for divestment is not just in Glasgow. Students across the country are applying pressure on their universities to do the same. If Glasgow University were to divest, it would be at the forefront of a movement across the UK that would see universities nationwide living up to their promises and taking active steps to combat climate change.

As institutions of learning, research, and forward thinking in the modern world, it is only natural that universities take the lead in divestment. Collectively, British universities have approximately £6 billion invested in the fossil fuel industry. Together they can play a massive role in the fight against climate change. Universities have a duty to ensure a safer future for their students, and the support they are currently giving to the fossil fuel industry through investment goes completely against this.

The use of fossil fuel is damaging to the climate and has wide-scale environmental repercussions. The World Health Organisation estimates that climate change will cause approximately 250 thousand additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050. The University of Glasgow – however indirectly involved it may be – should not profit from this. It should be taking active steps towards ensuring a more reliable and sustainable future for not only its current students, but potential students in the future.

At the time of writing, a petition to Principal Anton Muscatelli supporting the cause for divestment has over 1,300 signatures. If you would like to sign the petition, it can be found here.

[Louisa Burden @burdisthew0rd]

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