The University of Edinburgh is under renewed pressure to completely disinvest from the arms industry after over 50 academics signed an open letter calling for the institution to divest from the arms trade and fossil fuels. The University of Edinburgh’s endowment fund is the third largest in the UK valued at £230 million. The calls build on the enormous success of the 2013 student campaign which led to the University’s decision to divest from drone manufacturer Ultra Electronics.
The letter has also been supported by George Monbiot, Scottish MSP John Finnie and Edinburgh University Student Association amongst others.
The open letter:
Dear Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea,
We are proud of being part of a University which aspires ‘to make world-leading contributions to understanding and addressing global challenges’. We are calling on the University to take action to fulfill these objectives: to divest from fossil fuels and the arms trade. While we use our endowment fund to support the fossil fuel industry, we bear responsibility for the environmental damage and social injustice that result from it. Similarly, by investing in arms companies we are fueling conflict, poverty and human rights abuses.
The most recent IPCC report has clearly stated that anthropogenic global warming is “unequivocal”. If we continue on the current trajectory to a 4°C rise in global temperature we will face rising sea levels, reduced capacity of food production, and immanent resource wars. Whilst there is near-consensus concerning the causes and potential consequences of climate change, the global community has faltered in articulating the actions that must be taken to combat it.
We now have a global movement that has pinpointed a simple and necessary action: divestment from fossil fuels. From the University of Glasgow, to theBritish Medical Association, The World Council of Churches, Mary Robinson,Desmond Tutu, UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Union of Students – the support for divestment is widespread. Collectively over $50 billion of investment in fossil fuels has been withdrawn. In order to stay below a two degree rise of global temperature, 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay underground. This is possible. A whole-scale shift to renewable energy production, coupled with increased efforts to reduce consumption would enable us to mitigate the effects of climate change. The fossil fuel industry poses a formidable barrier through funding climate change denial and lobbying politicians, thus distorting public debate and preventing action on climate change.
Business as usual is not an option. Divestment from the fossil fuel industry means that our money will not further worsen the problem but also send a strong statement that the University of Edinburgh is making a ‘significant, sustainable and socially responsible contribution to Scotland, the UK and the world’. We further believe that divestment from the arms trade is crucial and follows the precedent set by divesting from Ultra Electronics Ltd. Our continued investment in fossil fuels and arms, combined with the futility of shareholder engagement, constitutes inaction on climate change and human conflict across the globe. It is time that we stop thinking in terms of the risk of divestment and lead the way in creating a sustainable and secure future. By positively investing in renewable energy, local innovations and the university’s own initiatives we will be fulfilling the University’s mission and attempting to meet its targets to reduce carbon emissions.
We are calling on the University of Edinburgh to divest from fossil fuels and the arms trade.