The student body at the University of Edinburgh was surprised yesterday evening with an email from its senior Vice-Principal, Charlie Jeffery, announcing remarkable news: the University has decided to complete its transition out of fossil fuels within three years.
For those who have been following trends in the institution’s investments, this is no real surprise. Since 2010, it has invested more than £150m in low carbon technology, climate-related research and businesses that directly benefit the environment. The move is aligned with the efforts promoted by their ‘Zero by 2040’ policy, for which the University aims to be carbon neutral by 2040, under which more than £30m were invested in low carbon technology on campus.
It is important to remember that this divestment does not mean we will cease to work, as researchers and consultants, with companies in the fossil fuels sector. Academic researchers, including the Green Materials Laboratory, play an essential and growing role in improving the sustainability of petroleum companies, from new fuel additives to alternative polymers to new energy alternatives. The Green Materials Laboratory, in particular, is keen to ensure that those dialogues and research relationships continue, to ensure we maintain a strong voice in these organisations, and advocate for a more sustainable future.
Having represented less than 1% of the invested funds at the time of the decision, this step towards a greener future is largely symbolic: The University has the largest endowment fund of any university in Scotland, and, following this step, it will become the largest in the UK to be free of fossil fuel investment. To read the press release, head here.