Oil capital university votes to sell fossil fuel assets
Campaigners have welcomed the vote
Aberdeen University, based in the UK’s oil and gas capital, has voted to sell all its investments in fossil fuels.
The University’s Court today committed the institution to excluding fossil fuel extractor companies from its £52.7 million investment portfolio by 2025.
It becomes the 90th UK university to make a commitment to divest from fossil fuels.
The Aberdeen court voted in favour of divestment despite having voting members with links to the fossil fuel and energy sectors.
They cited commitments to sustainable leadership and using their “unique position and influence to encourage and support the transition to the low carbon economy” in the region as reasons for the decision.
They also said the decision acknowledged the student voice, following discussions with Fossil Free Aberdeen and the Students’ Association.
So far, 75% of Scotland’s universities have decided to exclude fossil fuel extractor companies from their investments and nearly 60% of all universities in the UK have made some form of divestment commitment.
Students at divested universities are now turning their attention to halting recruitment from UK universities into oil, gas and mining companies.
Today’s announcement comes after an eight-year campaign from Aberdeen students in the People & Planet network, the UK’s largest student climate justice campaigns network.
In the lead up to COP26 the announcement has placed increased scrutiny on the few remaining Scottish universities that have not yet divested, in particular, Aberdeen-based Robert Gordon University, which also has strong links to the fossil fuel industry.
Aberdeen City Council has highlighted the need to centre a ‘green recovery’ with a heavy focus on combating climate change, with North Sea oil extraction having been detrimentally impacted by both collapsing oil prices and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just under 82% of surveyed oil and gas workers indicated that they would consider moving out of fossil fuel extraction, and over half expressed that they would retrain in renewable energy if given the opportunity.
Laura Clayson, campaign manager: climate justice at People & Planet said: “We are deeply encouraged by this hugely significant announcement from the University of Aberdeen.
“It shows that no matter your context, it is possible to listen to the voices of students, prioritise a just transition that centres the needs of workers in the region and move away from the companies complicit in the climate crisis all at once.
“In this year of COP26, cutting links with the fossil fuel industry is as important as it’s ever been, representing a necessary act of support for the frontline and Indigenous communities demanding climate and social justice at the talks.
“We hope to witness the four Scottish universities that have yet to make an announcement do so, and in particular look forward to hearing from Robert Gordon University”.
Alisa Koester, Fossil Free Aberdeen and Student President of Aberdeen University Students’ Association added: “Today’s announcement from the University of Aberdeen about divestment from all fossil fuels is a massive win for environmentalism, students and our planet.
“We know this is just the first step on a long road but we thank the University for taking it.”