PRESS RELEASE: University of the West of England becomes the first university in 2022 to fully divest from fossil fuels

By: Laura Clayson
Image of student union president and university staff members, with the Vice-Chancellor holding up a signed copy of the Fossil Free Declaration.

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

 

University of the West of England becomes the first university in 2022 to fully divest from fossil fuels

 

**BEGINS**

Today the University of the West of England (‘UWE’) has become the 93rd UK university, and the first in 2022, to announce its divestment from fossil fuel companies. UWE accomplished this by becoming the 21st signatory to the People & Planet and NUS Fossil Free Declaration.

This commitment comes as a result of work undertaken by The Students’ Union at UWE in conjunction with the university, and builds upon the efforts of generations of students over the course of 9 years. The announcement today means that 60% of the UK university sector now exclude fossil fuel companies from their portfolios, in line with student demands around climate and social justice. Across the UK’s 4 nations, Wales leads the way with 88% of its universities having excluded fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios; Scotland next with 75%; England third with 57% and Northern Ireland fourth with 50%.

Despite limited progress in UK-hosted COP26 negotiations in 2021, UK universities are continuing the trend of climate action by aligning their investment portfolios with sustainability criteria.

Last week the Indigenous communities of A’i Cofan of the Sinangoe village and Waorani of the Pastaza province delivered over 365,000 signatures to Ecuador’s constitutional court. Signatories were presented in support of their right to free, prior and informed consent and respect for the finality of any decisions they make regarding extractive projects within their territories. This international context makes clear the power inherent in the UK university sector’s majority Fossil Free status: solidarity with the communities resisting the destructive impacts of extractive business models.

Students will now be focusing on UWE’s Careers Service, and calling for them to explicitly exclude oil, gas and mining companies from recruiting and advertising in university spaces. This is part of a coordinated national campaign under the banner ‘Fossil Free Careers’.

Laura Clayson, Campaign Manager: Climate Justice at People & Planet said:
“It is great to see UWE starting 2022 with an announcement grounded in social and climate justice, and I am delighted for all of the students and staff who have worked so hard to secure this result over the years. That UWE’s signatory to the Declaration means 60% of the UK university sector are now committed to divestment is something to celebrate, but it begs the question of why 40% remain invested in an industry so deeply complicit in the climate crisis and the associated destruction of indigenous people’s lands, lives and livelihoods. Given this, we also look forward to seeing all divested universities follow this positive action by excluding oil, gas and mining companies from recruitment on campus. If fossil fuel company investments are not conscionable, then it’s logical that promoting career paths into these industries isn’t either: we need Fossil Free Careers”.

Evan Botwood, Student Union President of the Student’s Union at UWE, said:
“The student campaigning journey that started years ago has culminated into the commitment that UWE Bristol will never invest in fossil fuel extractor companies. This commitment sends a clear message to our partners, suppliers, students and staff that UWE Bristol has high expectations that funds are being invested sustainably, and for our journey towards net-zero. This is not an end, but a new beginning towards decarbonising the whole institution and the next-step is our careers service".

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England, said:
“We are pleased to be signing this pledge and our ambition is to ensure we not only take steps as a university but educate staff and students to be more sustainable and environmentally aware as we take a massive leap forward at work and at home.”

 

**ENDS**

 

Notes to editor

  • People & Planet define full divestment as divestment from all fossil fuel extractor company holdings. Partial divestment is defined as divestment from only some fossil fuel extractor company holdings - usually those involved with the extraction of coal and tar sands.
     
  • People & Planet: www.peoplandplanet.org 
  • University of the West of England divestment announcement:

https://info.uwe.ac.uk/news/uwenews/news.aspx?id=4208 

https://peopleandplanet.org/fossil-free-scorecards/32983

  • Fossil Free Declaration:

https://peopleandplanet.org/fossil-free-declaration

  • Petition to the Ecuador Constitutional Court:

https://www.reuters.com/article/ecuador-oil-mining/ecuador-indigenous-demand-rights-to-consent-on-extractive-projects-idINL1N2TY1UK

https://www.amazonfrontlines.org/chronicles/ecuador-indigenous-movement-free-prior-informed-consent-declaration/

  • Fossil Free Careers campaign: 

https://peopleandplanet.org/fossil-free-careers

  • Nations figures:

Nations

 

Number of universities in nation

 

England

72

126

57%

Northern Ireland

2

4

50%

Scotland

12

16

75%

Wales

7

8

88%

Overall

93

154

60%