Ethics Forum

University of Edinburgh

Should Edinburgh University divest from fossil fuels?

Divestment would send a powerful message from one of the world’s top universities and the UK’s third richest. But is it the University’s place, as a public institution, to send such a message?

Listen to an audio recording of the debate held October 9th 2014, or have your say in our comments section.


Guardian: Glasgow students hold a silent protest to raise awareness of the divestment from fossil fuels campaign. Photograph: Courtesy People & Planet

Guardian: Glasgow students hold a silent protest to raise awareness of the divestment from fossil fuels campaign. Photograph: Courtesy People & Planet

Debate continues…

Positions of different universities vary: Harvard resists divestment, but Edinburgh, like Stanford and Yale, is looking more closely into the matter. Meanwhile, Glasgow becomes the first university in Europe to divest from fossil fuels; yet the reaction of Glasgow University’s engineers articulates thoughts that may weigh more heavily at other institutions.

Update on Fossil Fuel Divestment, 18 May 2015:

As Edinburgh University announces the decision not to take significant steps towards divestment, and the Senior Vice Principal defends the decision in the national press, one of our students publishes a response in the same paper, while a group of students set up an occupation of university offices.

Participants in earlier Ethics Forum events, where the balance of ethical argument had been made strikingly clear, have added blogs: Kieran Oberman has diagnosed Five Bad Arguments Against Divestment, while Tim Hayward has called for more properly open discussion of the University’s reasons for resisting divestment.


As it happened

The University is committed to taking ethical concerns seriously when choosing its portfolio, but how far should it go in this regard? Campaigners are lobbying hard for Edinburgh and other universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. The campaigners argue that the fossil fuel industry not only directly causes climate change but also uses its political influence to stall government action to address the issue.

Would divestment not undermine Edinburgh’s ability to achieve the secure financial future it needs to go on serving its students and faculty? Would it not be better for Edinburgh to campaign from within the fossil fuel industry as an active investor? Or is the idea that active investment can achieve results itself political naive?

On October 9th, 2014 we held a sell-out debate between Dr. Gbenga Ibikunle (Lecturer in Financial Markets, Deputy Director UoE Sustainable Business Initiative) and Councillor Maggie Chapman (Co-Convenor Scottish Green Party, Lecturer in Cultural Geography, Environmental Ethics and Social Justice at Napier University), with Dr. Elizabeth Cripps (Associate Director Just World Institute) as chair.

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This entry was posted on October 9, 2014 by .
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