Edinburgh announces change in fossil fuels investment policy

The University of Edinburgh has committed to a change of fossil fuel investment policy.

The decision follows an extensive consultation process with staff and students to determine how the University should take forward its commitment to responsible investment.

In reaching its decision, the University does not see choices as limited to ‘no change’ or ‘pull out of all investments’. It has been agreed that the University will use its research activities and its responsible investment to work with companies to reduce their emissions.

Responsible investment

As a global civic institution, the University of Edinburgh will continue to take its lead through our research, teaching and knowledge exchange and helping society understand, manage and reduce climate risks.

Professor Charlie JefferySenior Vice Principal

Through its commitment to responsible investment the University will seek to change the behaviour of the companies in which it invests - in the fossil fuels sector and in all other sectors.

Companies will be required to report on their emissions and benchmark them according to best performance in their sector.

In addition, the University will focus specifically on companies involved in the extraction of the highest carbon-emitting fossil fuels: coal and tar sands.

The University will withdraw from investment in these companies if: realistic alternative sources of energy are available and the companies involved are not investing in technologies that help address the effects of carbon emissions and climate change.

In all cases the University will discuss its concerns with these companies prior to change in investment policy.

The University will also prioritise low or zero-carbon investments by identifying and replacing investments with lower carbon alternatives where available.

Research activity

Through its research activity and its teaching the University will continue to explore alternative sources of renewable energy and develop low carbon technologies.

It will also continue its commitment to carbon capture and storage research, focusing on new ways of securing energy from fossil fuels without the harmful emissions that cause climate change.

Fossil Fuels Review Group

A Fossil Fuels Review Group was set up to research and recommend options around investments in fossil fuels and its recommendations for the policies described above were approved by the University Court.

The Fossil Fuels Review Group included a Vice President of the Students’ Association, academic experts from the School of GeoSciences, the School of Law and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, a member of the University’s Investment Committee and senior University managers.

The group recognised and endorsed scientific research about the role of fossil fuels in climate change. It also recognised that we use fossil fuels for a range of purposes - not just energy, but also, for example, in agricultural fertilisers, the manufacture of plastics and the production of steel - and that feasible alternatives for many of these purposes do not currently exist.

The group noted in particular that many developing countries are still dependent on fossil fuels for the provision of heating, clean water and refrigeration. An abrupt shift away from fossil fuel use would impact on the well-being of some of the world’s poorest communities.

The decision outlines our commitment to use the leverage of our investments to bring about change that reduces carbon emissions in the fossil fuels and other sectors, and to press further with our world-leading research activities that actively contribute to the solution of problems arising from fossil fuel emissions and the identification of alternative technologies

Professor Charlie JefferySenior Vice Principal