Edinburgh University Caves to Campaign Pressure, Divestment in Coal, Tar Sands Coming

(EnviroNews World News) — Following an intense occupation of a university management building that lasted nearly two weeks, Eidinburgh University finally relented under the pressure and announced on May 26, 2015 it would be pulling its money out of the dirtiest of dirty fossil fuels.

The announcement was a complete reversal of it’s previous position and came on the heels of another announcement made on May 12 where the university leaders had stated that they would not divest their funds from dirty fossil fuels. That announcement ignited outrage from students and various groups which ultimately lead to the occupation-style protest of the university building.

The news was made publicly available through a joint press release issued by several green groups. The release reads as follows:

University of Edinburgh Concedes to Divestment Campaigners: Divestment from Coal and Tar Sands Likely Within 6 Months

EDINBURGH, UK – On Tuesday 26 May, in a big step forward for student campaigners, the University of Edinburgh announced its intention to divest from coal and tar sands within the next 6 months. The news represents a significant shift in the university’s position, after it announced on Tuesday 12 May that it would not divest from fossil fuels, sparking a student occupation of a university management building which lasted for more than 10 days.

The University announced today that it is writing to three of the world’s biggest fossil fuel producers to inform them that it intends to fully divest from their activities within the next six months, giving the three companies the opportunity to respond in the next four weeks. It is not known what, if any, response from companies might change their stated intent to divest.

Kirsty Haigh, student campaigner with Edinburgh People & Planet and NUS Scotland VP Communities, said:

“We are glad to see the University finally accept that there are lower carbon alternatives to coal and tar sands, but it should have never taken this long. The University is pledging to ‘engage’ with these companies for the next 4 weeks before divesting, but have refused to outline what that means. These companies pour millions into greenwashing and it is crucial that the University is not bought over by this, and that they follow through and fully divest from them.”

The announcement follows a 3-year campaign by Edinburgh People & Planet student group, which has been calling for the university to divest from the world’s top 200 fossil fuel companies. The University of Glasgow, Bedfordshire University and SOAS, University of London have all committed to divest from fossil fuels, whilst the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has committed to divest from coal and Oxford University has spurned coal and tar sands investments.

Since the University first announced its decision not to divest two weeks ago, students have staged dozens of actions including pickets, marches, rallies, banner-drops, die-ins and a 10 day occupation of the University’s central management building. The students have also received endorsements from environmental groups Friends of the Earth Scotland, World Wildlife Foundation Scotland and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, as well as from several MSPs and the Nobel Laureate author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report to the Kyoto Climate Summit.

Over 40 civil society organisations, including many from the Global South, have signed an open letter which condemns the University of Edinburgh for its refusal to divest from fossil fuels [2] in response to an article written by the university’s senior vice principal published in the Guardian earlier this month [3]. Earlier today, 300 Edinburgh alumni have also pledged to not donate to the university until it commits to fully disinvest from fossil fuels [4].

Miriam Wilson, Fossil Free campaign coordinator at People & Planet, said:

“Companies involved in coal and tar sands extraction are irrevocably damaging our climate and attempts to engage with them to mitigate their climate impacts have failed. Eighty-percent of coal reserves and all of the Canadian tar sands need to stay in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. We urge the University of Edinburgh to go beyond today’s announcement and commit to full divestment within 5 years – nothing short of this is enough.”

Contact:
Kirsty Haigh (Student campaigner and NUS Scotland Vice President of Communities) 07950 671 772, [email protected]

Eleanor Dow (Student campaigner) 07770 433 737

Juliette Daigre (Fossil Free Campaign Manager, People & Planet) 01865 264 194, [email protected]

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