Half of UK universities have signed up to divest from fossil fuels in what campaigners say is a significant blow to the “social licence” of big oil.
Seventy-eight of the UK’s 154 public universities have joined the divestment campaign, either divesting or pledging to divest hundreds of millions from the fossil fuel industry.
Although some of the universities have only withdrawn from certain fossil fuels – such as tar sands or coal – others have already divested from all fossil fuels as part of what campaigners say it is an accelerating process of delegitimisation of the industry.
Chris Saltmarsh from the campaign group People & Planet said excluding the industry from universities was now “a mainstream and majority position”.
“That universities across the sector are now divesting so fully and quickly demonstrates how far the fossil fuel industry’s social license has been eroded over the last seven years. It is increasingly common sense on UK campuses that these companies can play no productive role in solving the climate crisis.”
Saltmarsh warned that those institutions that held out against divestment would be harshly judged by history.
“Universities not yet divested can now choose to stand with their students on the right side of history or be forever known as complicit in the crimes of climate breakdown.”
In the past year a flurry of major academic institutions – from University College London to York University – have pledged to divest completely. However several major universities, including Cambridge, are still subject to vociferous campaigns by students and staff over their links to the fossil fuel industry.
A Guardian investigation last year revealed that just 20 fossil fuel giants are linked to a third of all the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving the climate crisis.
And as awareness of the industry’s role in the climate crisis has grown, it has come under growing pressure in the UK with leading arts institutions facing calls to end their sponsorship deals and protesters targeting individual companies.
Saltmarsh said: “Wildfires are wreaking destruction across Australia, the Amazon and beyond while fossil fuel companies profit from the extraction to blame for this devastation. Excluding this industry from our universities is now a mainstream and majority position.”
Read the full story here.