University of Massachusetts becomes latest institution to divest from fossil fuels

It's been a big week for fossil fuel divestment at universities in the UK and abroad

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Friday 27 May 2016 18:36 BST
Climate change protests - like this one in London, pictured - have been taking place in cities across the world (LEON NEAL/Getty)
Climate change protests - like this one in London, pictured - have been taking place in cities across the world (LEON NEAL/Getty)

Student activists are continuing to make a positive impact on climate change as the University of Massachusetts (UMass) in the US becomes the latest major institution to announce it is to end its direct investments in fossil fuel companies.

The news comes after the universities of Newcastle and Southampton in the UK, this week, announced they will commit to changing their investment policies following months of student protests.

Melbourne’s La Trobe University, meanwhile, became the Australia’s first to confirm it will divest within five years.

UMass said its decision followed a series of developments that signalled the university community’s desire to fight climate change. After a number of demonstrations at its Amherst campus last month, the institution’s board of directors unanimously voted to divest all direct holdings of the $770 million (£526 million) endowment from coal, oil, and gas.

UMass president Marty Meehan said the action is consistent with the principles that have guided the university, and reflects its commitment to take on the environmental challenges “that confront us all.”

He said: “Important societal change often begins on college campuses and it often begins with students.

I’m proud of the students and the entire university community for putting UMass at the forefront of a vital movement, one that has been important to me throughout my professional life.”

The University of Leeds saw students go into occupation on Thursday over the institution’s refusal to ‪‎divest‬, despite 83 per cent of students voting in favour of divestment.

Despite not being able to support divestment, the University of Leeds said in a statement: “The university is committed to supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy. We believe we can most effectively do this through teaching, and through research to reduce emissions from the use of fossil fuels and develop alternative energy sources, alongside leveraging our considerable reputation in this area to encourage behavioural change.”

Writing for the Independent, National Union of Students’ vice-president of society and citizenship, Piers Telemacque, said Britain’s universities need to look at their finances and question the kind of future they are shaping for students, both present and yet-to-come.

He wrote: “There are no good reasons to keep investing in fossil fuels. It just makes sense to move money into renewables as quickly as possible. The students are clear about it, the science is clear about it, and the economy is clear about it. It’s time for Leeds - along with all UK universities - to invest in the future we all want to see.”

The University of Cambridge recently faced growing pressure - from both student activists and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams - to withdraw its investments from fossil fuel companies.

More than 100 staff, students, alumni, and others affiliated with the institution signed an open letter saying the university has always made “a remarkable impact on the world.” However, when it comes to the climate, the signatories said Cambridge is making “exactly the wrong kind of impact.”

A Cambridge spokesperson said the institution seeks to invest responsibly “for the good of the university” in accordance with its mission to contribute to society, and that its Endowment Fund has been set up to support this.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in