An anti-carbon emissions divestment campaign is urging UK universities to pull funding from fossil fuel giants.

The year-old campaign, Fossil Free, has already successfully convinced 40 US institutions to pull out of fossil fuel investments, and is now targeting universities in Britain. Student group, People and Planet, claim universities have more than £5bn invested in fossil fuels.

Recent regulations by the world’s governments to restrict carbon emissions could leave two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel reserves unburnable.

Apart from the effects that burning fossil fuel has on the environment, the divestment campaign urges that pulling investment from fossil fuel giants has an important impact on the global economy. Recent regulations by the world’s governments to restrict carbon emissions could leave two thirds of the world’s fossil fuel reserves unburnable.

If the major fossil fuel companies fail to shift their billions of pounds worth of investments to renewable energy sources, this could lead to an inflated ‘stock market carbon bubble’, which would have financial ramifications around the world.

Duncan Davis, President of the University of Nottingham’s (UON’s) Young Greens Society, is supporting the campaign. He believes universities have an obligation to invest in “clean, renewable technologies”.

“The University has a responsibility to continue its research in and investment into the green technologies of the future”.

Davis maintained, UoN “should completely divest from fossil fuel companies, which look for ever more extreme and damaging ways to extract energy from fossils. Universities are public institutions and should work in the public interest, which means using their significant economic weight to support more sustainable and ethical industries.”

The Students’ Union Environment and Social Justice Officer, Michael Abiodun Olatokun, similarly pointed out that the challenges of global sustainability are immediate, and states that the University has “a responsibility to continue its research in and investment into the green technologies of the future.”

However, Tom Williams, a third year Geography student, attests that there is still a need for fossil fuel industry investment by UK universities.

“Nuclear power is the most realistic fuel source for replacing fossil fuels”.

He explained, “Fossil fuels are [presently] the main fuel source used for generating electricity, heating our homes and powering our various forms of transport, and realistically this will be the case for years to come. Therefore, maintaining investment in fossil fuel companies is vitally important.”

Williams added, “Personally, I think universities should invest hugely in nuclear power. It’s the most realistic fuel source for replacing fossil fuels”.

The University of Nottingham’s investment policy states that “The University of Nottingham is committed to investing its endowment funds on a responsible basis” and that the policy is “based on the premise that the University’s choice of where to invest should reflect its ethical values”. As a result, it says the University “will not invest in those organisations where the primary part of their business clearly demonstrates…explicit environmental damage”.

Whether this means that the UoN does currently invest in the fossil fuels industry, has not been determined.

Millie Cepelak

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