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Divestment: University of London’s school freezes fossil fuels investment



London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has temporarily frozen its investment in fossil fuel companies and said it would explore the possibility of full divestment, following a campaign from more than 600 students calling for cutting ties with firms blamed for climate change.

SOAS has become the second UK higher education institution, after Glasgow University, to officially step back from fossil fuels investment.

Whilst SOAS has not announced full divestment, it has put future investments on hold and said it would consider ditching its holdings, valued at £2 million, completely later in November.

University director Paul Webley said, “SOAS is proud of its ethical investment policy, and it is right that we regularly review it and look at how it can be extended. The management of SOAS has a duty to ensure that the School’s investments deliver a financial return – but we also have a duty to invest responsibly.

“The way human activity is changing our climate is a serious source of concern to staff and students at SOAS. This is increasingly reflected in our academic programmes. We have already made some progress in minimising the environmental impacts of our buildings and facilities. Now is the time to look at how these values may be extended to our financial investment”.

Much more popular in the US, the divestment movement, which is asking institutions to cut ties with companies contributing to climate change, is still at an early stage in the UK.

Oxford students and academic have called on the university to divest, while pressure group People&Planet asked Universities UK (UUK) to discuss British universities’ £5.2 billion investment in the industry.

Commenting on SOAS’ announcement, Fossil Free SOAS spokesperson, Julia Christian said, “This is fantastic progress towards cleaning up SOAS’ fossil fuel investments – but it is only a first step. We want to see SOAS pull out of fossil fuels completely, and will be pushing for that decision at the next meeting of finance team in November.”

Photo: James Ennis 2 via flickr

Further reading:

University of Glasgow advisers suggest total divestment from fossil fuels within 10 years

Desmond Tutu calls on South African university to divest from fossil fuels

Oxford residents and students to march for fossil fuel divestment

UK universities have £5.2bn invested in the fossil fuel industry, report says

Students, universities and fossil fuels: divestment campaign comes to UK


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