Breaking: UCL divests from fossil fuel investments

UCL have announced their decision to divest completely from their fossil fuel investments by the end of 2019, following years of student protests and pressure from the Fossil Free UCL campaign to do so.

UCL held £16 million in fossil fuel investments with Royal Dutch Shell previously. There is speculation that the hesitation over divestment was due to a conflict of interest among senior management, as the previous chair of UCL council was a chief executive of Shell and BP for ten years prior.

UCL’s announcement stated that divestment is a part of “its plans to ever-more active in tackling the global climate emergency whilst deepening its commitment as a leader in environmental and social sustainability.”

Over the last seven years, Fossil Free UCL have organised student protests and direct action against UCL, calling for divestment, backed by the Student’s Union and academic unions’ referendums that showed a majority support for divestment from students and staff at the university.

A Sustainable Beginning

In a press release sent to London Student, Ruby Harrop, a Fossil Free UCL campaigner, said: “Although we are pleased UCL has divested, we are disappointed that today’s decision makes UCL one of the last UK universities to divest and after a history of intense clamp-down on student protest, threats of disciplinary action and surveillance of activists.”

She also said, “It is very good to see UCL eventually cut ties with this destructive industry,” suggesting that the fossil fuel industry’s investments from instutitions such as UCL have permitted them to commit “global injustices.”

Another campaigner, Charles Stevenson, said: “Fossil Free would have liked London’s Global University to be at the forefront of the divestment movement, not playing catch-up. We hop the new sustainability strategy will be followed by a radical overhaul of their investment approach towards an ethical and sustainable practice.”

UCL’s sustainability strategy includes a pledge for “all UCL buildings to be net zero carbon by 2024 and for our whole instution to be net zero carbon by 2020.” Additionally, UCL has committed to creating a single-use-plastic free campus and reducing waste per person by 20%.

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