24 April 2015
SOAS, University of London has announced today it will divest in fossil fuels within the next three years. This will make the university the first in London to fully divest.
The decision was approved by the School's Governing Body following a review led by a working group of GB members.
In June 2014, SOAS agreed to freeze all new investments in fossil fuels, while the question of divestment was investigated. Oil and gas equities currently stand at £1.5 million.
In order to implement the divestment plan, an ethical investment criterion will be added to SOAS' Ethical Investment Policy and the School’s Gift Acceptance Form and due diligence procedure for philanthropic gifts will be amended. The School will also continue to comprehensively collect data across SOAS to establish its carbon footprint.
Sustainability is one of SOAS' core values. The School has made great progress in reducing its carbon footprint in the last decade. Carbon emissions from buildings (classified as Scope 1 and Scope 2) have been reduced by approximately 55% in real terms since 2008-09. The reduction in utility consumption is estimated to have saved approximately £1.2m over this period.
SOAS is now listed 20th in the University Carbon Reduction League Table April 2015, which assesses the 126 HEFCE funded institutions, and is ahead of its carbon reduction target despite more intensive use of its estate. In recognition of its achievements in this area, SOAS has been shortlisted by this year’s Camden Business Awards for its ‘Excellence in Energy Efficiency & Carbon Reduction’ and the School received an ‘upper second class’ award in the Green League by People and Planet, now ranking the School at 49 out of 151 institutions.
Professor Paul Webley, Director of SOAS, said: “SOAS is proud to become the first university in London to divest and we hope more universities will follow suit. Divestment from fossil fuels will enable SOAS to fulfil its responsibilities as an ethical investor, while continuing to ensure that the School’s investments deliver a financial return. This is in line with SOAS’ commitment to environmental sustainability and an important part of the transition towards renewable energy, which SOAS takes very seriously as an institution. As the harmful social and environmental impacts of climate change becoming increasingly clear, these initiatives ensure that SOAS is doing all it can to show leadership on this issue.”
Professor Rosaleen Duffy, expert on the impacts of climate change in Africa, in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS said:
"Climate change is likely to deepen global inequalities - as the richest produce the greatest share of emissions while the poorest have to cope with it's greatest burdens. Tackling climate change is vital for sustainable development in Africa, and so it is critical that an institution like SOAS takes a lead on divestment."
Julia Christian, Fossil Free SOAS campaign member, said:
"We are so proud to be SOAS students, staff and alumni today. This is a historic decision, part of a shifting tide away fossil fuels that is happening across the world as we speak. The fossil fuel industry is a thing of the past. We urge our governments to pay attention to the inspiring divestment campaigns by people young and old at universities, local governments and religious institutions across the world, and put all our weight towards shifting to the renewable energy future we need.”
Andrew Taylor, Campaigns Manger at People & Planet, which supports university divestment campaigns across the UK said:
"If you are interested in studying environmental or social justice issues at a university that definitely won't be investing your fees in wrecking the climate, then SOAS must now be one of the top places to do it. Universities that continue to say no to divestment are eroding their legitimacy to teach about sustainability."