University of Bristol successfully divests from fossil fuel companies

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By Benjamin Salmon, Deputy News Editor

The University made the announcement after it pledged to divest in March 2018 and is now calling for an industry-wide commitment.

Bristol University has announced that it has successfully divested from all companies involved in the production of fossil fuels.

The move is the latest step the University has taken to address its connections to carbon-intensive industries after it became the first University in the UK to declare a climate emergency in 2019.

University management, in agreement with Bristol SU and the Bristol branch of the University and College Union (UCU), is now calling on the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) to also divest within the next 4 years.

The USS is the higher education industry’s largest private pension scheme worth £67 billion.

USS currently invests around £1 billion in fossil fuel companies and there have been calls for this income route to come to an end in the fight against climate change.

Climate strikes across the world have incentivised action. Epigram / Maggie Sawant, Cecile Lewis

Robert Kerse, the University of Bristol’s Chief Operating Officer, said: ‘Collaboration between students and staff has been instrumental in bringing about this change. Our community is now focussing on the £1 billion of fossil fuel investments held by the USS pension scheme.

‘Today we have signed a joint statement between the University, Bristol Branch of UCU and the Bristol Student Union calling on USS to exit these investments over the next four years and urge other institutions to join forces between students and staff to do the same.

‘The resources owned by fossil fuel companies pose a material threat to our planet and could diminish in value as the world gradually reduces its use of fossil fuels.’

People and Planet, a student society which campaigns for climate action, particularly concerning divestment fossil fuel companies within the university sector, agreed that more needed to be done.

Hannah Syed, People and Planet President, said: ‘We were shocked to learn that USS has over £1 billion invested in fossil fuel companies.

‘Many of our lecturers devote significant energy exploring the issues of climate chaos with us.  Yet their pensions are heavily invested in the industry most responsible for climate change.

‘This means our fees are funding the climate crisis and putting all of our futures at risk. Students have a duty to support their staff and call for the USS to fully divest from fossil fuels.’

Bristol UCU President, James Thompson, said: ‘UCU has campaigned vigorously for a decade on climate change, building alliances with students and environmental organisations.

‘We are proud to join with the University of Bristol, and People and Planet, in calling on USS to divest from fossil fuels.’

Featured image credit: Epigram / Ellie Brown


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