The University of Edinburgh is facing calls to divest from the fossil fuel and arms industries following an open letter signed by academics from the institution.
The university has one of the largest endowment funds in the UK, totalling £230 million. The letter has been published ahead of a meeting looking at the options for fossil fuel divestment. The University of Edinburgh is expected to announce a decision next month.
The academics argue that whilst the university is supporting the fossil fuel industry through investment it bears “responsibility for the environmental damage and social injustices that result from it”. Similarly, they add that investing in arms companies is fuelling “conflict, poverty and human rights abuses”.
The letter states, “Business as usual is not an option. Divestment from the fossil fuel industry means that our money will not further worsen the problem but also send a strong statement that the University of Edinburgh is making a ‘significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world’. We further believe that divestment from the arms trade is crucial and follows the precedent set by divesting from Ultra Electronic Ltd.”
The academics note the growing fossil fuel divestment movement, which has led to more than $50 billion (£32bn) of investment being withdrawn from the industry. They also point to research showing that the vast majority of fossil fuels must remain in the ground if the world is to avoid dangerous levels of climate change and argue this is possible through a “whole-scale shift to renewable energy production”.
Divestment is described as a “simple and necessary action” to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The letter adds, “Our continued investment in fossil fuels and arms, combined with the futility of shareholder engagement, constitutes as inaction on climate change and human conflict across the globe. It is time we stop thinking in terms of risk of divestments and lead the way in creating a sustainable and secure future.”
Photo: dun_deagh via Flickr