At the behest of student activist raising awareness about the climate crisis, universities around the world have recently been pulling their investments from the fossil fuel industry.
The University of California pulled all $84 billion in its pension and endowment funds from gas, coal and oil in the fall. Sustained pressure from Georgetown University Fossil Free successfully persuaded the school to divest from fossil fuels and boost its investments in renewable energy earlier this year.
The latest school to commit to a fossil-free future is the renowned British institution the University of Oxford, which also asked its fund managers to show evidence of net-zero business plans. The school, which has more than $3.7 billion in its endowment fund, made the announcement on Monday.
Since 2012, student campaigns have sought to marginalize companies like Shell and BP, which profit from actions that contribute to the climate crisis. As of January, the National Union of Students, People & Planet and Students Organizing for Sustainability UK had successfully lobbied 77 universities in the UK to end their investments in fossil fuels.
In a press release, Oxford announced that it would follow the guidelines set forth in the Oxford Martin Principles for Climate-Conscious Investment. That framework helps connect climate-conscious investors with companies around the world working to create a sustainable future. It also helps assess whether an investment will foster the goals of the Paris agreement.
"Their work is just part of the sector-leading environmental research across Oxford in such areas as climate economics, biodiversity, resource security, transition in energy use and climate change modeling," professor Cameron Hepburn, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment, added: "This is not mere divestment; this is a commitment to divestment plus engagement, according to the Oxford Martin Principles, to help accelerate progress towards net zero emissions. It is right that Oxford's leadership on the science, economics and finance of the transition to net zero emissions should be consistent with how we invest our endowment."
Of course, while the goals of a net zero future are admirable, the reasoning behind the divestment is not necessarily altruistic. Coal has been a losing investment for years and the energy sector has not produced favorable returns for institutional investors.
"We believe hanging on to fossil fuel assets is a financial risk." They went on to say that renewable energy sector is a growth opportunity.
"We have been looking years, decades and centuries ahead as we place our bets that clean energy will fuel the world's future. That means we believe there is money to be made. We have chosen to invest for a better planet, and reap the financial rewards for UC, rather than simply divest for a headline."
Activists have looked to spur similar action at some of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. They have lobbied to get Yale, with over $30 billion in its endowment, and Harvard, with over $40 billion in its fund, to end its investments in fossil fuels. (source: Ecowatch.com)
What are you doing to reduce your emissions and to protect the forests?
Use renewable energy, walk more and use public transportation, buy local organic food and go vegan, ditch single use plastics, plant a tree!
Say Yes to Life, Earth Thanks! 🌿