Last Tuesday 13 September, the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) discussed a motion to “Recommend that the University of St Andrews Divests its Endowment Fund from Fossil Fuel Extraction Companies Within Three Years” The endowment fund generates financing for student scholarships, bursaries, CAPOD support and University developments. The motion argues that “It is inherently linked to research and participation here at St Andrews.”

green energy

Two of the companies the University’s endowment fund is invested in, ATI Technologies and UBS Investment, were involved with investments in fossil fuel extraction.

According to the motion, the University invested a total value of £1,120,784.19 in both ATI Technologies and UBS Investment (sum correct as of July 2015).

However, both companies have decided to move towards divestment themselves.

UBS has divested itself from Oil Search Limited, a fossil fuel extraction company based in Papua New Guinea. ATI has also begun to divest its holdings from such companies.

Due to these developments, the motion was amended to reflect acknowledgement that the University would now be moving towards divestment.

President of the Students’ Association, Charlotte Andrew said that the University now fully recognises the concerns raised by the petition and is expected to commit to not investing funds towards companies associated with fossil fuel extraction in the future.

Ms Andrew also promised to review a timeline regarding the time frame in which ATI will no longer be associated with the University’s endowment fund.

The motion also notes that the University has had a Sustainable Investment Policy (SIP) since 2006.

A central aim of the SIP is the “protection of the global environment, its climate and its biodiversity.”

The motion goes on to acknowledge that “the University was one of the first in Britain to create a Sustainable Investment Policy and leads the country in its endeavour to become carbon neutral for energy production by 2016.”

The motion discussed is due to a petition drawn up by the student-led group Fossil Free St Andrews in March. The petition quickly gained popularity with over 550 students, alumni and academics as signatories and became “a clear demonstration of student and staff support.”

The University has had a Sustainable Investment Policy (SIP) since 2006. A central aim of the SIP is the protection of the global environment, its climate and its biodiversity”.

Fossil Free St Andrews argued that “By investing in fossil fuel companies, no matter how much money is implicated, the University is directly profiting from climate change.”

Speaking to The Saint at the time the petition was launched, a spokesperson for the group said, “Anthropogenic climate change is a clear and pressing threat to humanity and our planet’s biodiversity. The burning of fossil fuels has been scientifically proven to contribute to this and there is a global need to mitigate further environmental damage.

“As a university, St Andrews has led the way in sustainable investments. The University has removed its investments from arms manufacturers and significantly reduced the amount invested in fossil fuels.

“However, this does not go far enough. The current policy still permits investment in fossil fuel extraction companies which is of grave concern.

“By investing in fossil fuel companies, no matter how much money is implicated, the University is directly profiting from climate change.

“We believe that by removing all investments from fossil fuels, the University will be able to fulfil its desires to become economically and environmentally sustainable across the board, while renewing its commitment to mitigating catastrophic climate change.

“By investing in fossil fuel companies, no matter how much money is implicated, the University is directly profiting from climate change.

Ms Andrews told the SRC that she is enthusiastic about this recent development and believes that it is a step forward in creating a cleaner, safer and more sustainable community.

A spokesperson for the University said; “”The University of St Andrews takes very seriously its position to invest responsibly and have clear sustainable and responsible investment criteria for fund managers to work to.

“Currently none of our endowment investments are in oil or coal fossil fuels. A far greater involvement with fossil fuels is the University’s use of energy to heat and light our buildings.

“We believe the University of St Andrews to be a leader in the HE sector in terms of our move away from the use of fossil fuels to renewable energy sources as a direct energy source for the University including ongoing moves towards wind energy, and the creation of a biomass plant at our Guardbridge site.”

 

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