Today Robert Gordon University becomes the 103rd UK university to divest from fossil fuels, and the second to do so in Aberdeen, a city known as the ‘Oil Capital of Europe’ due to its links with North Sea oil and gas.
In a highly significant move, the university announced its commitment to exclude fossil fuel extraction companies from all its investments by updating its Investment Policy. This follows the University of Aberdeen’s commitment to divest from all fossil fuels in 2021.
The announcement comes after a year-long campaign from RGU Go Green student organisers, who are a part of People & Planet - the UK’s largest student climate justice campaigns network. The Fossil Free campaign demands that UK universities exclude the fossil fuel industry from their investments. This is in recognition of the industry’s role in the climate and ecological crisis, and as an act of solidarity with frontline and Indigenous communities experiencing the injustices of fossil fuel operations. Fossil Free has played an instrumental role in challenging the social licence of the fossil fuel industry to operate as it currently does.
Robert Gordon University committed to the exclusion of fossil fuel companies from their investments despite a number of wider links to the industry, including courses that are specific to the oil and gas industry and members of their board of governors having current or historical ties to the fossil fuel and energy sectors. This shows that the decision to divest from fossil fuels is increasingly a common sense choice and that universities are aligning with demands for a just transition to a low-carbon world. 81.7% of surveyed North Sea oil and gas workers have indicated that they’d consider moving out of fossil fuel extraction, and over half have expressed that they would retrain in renewable energy if given the opportunity.
Campaigners at Robert Gordon are now calling on the University to cut ties with the border industry. Students are demanding the university stops profiting from this abusive system and the cruelty it inflicts on migrating people, by adding exclusions for border industry companies to their Investment Policy. This campaign is coordinated as part of the UK-wide Divest Borders Campaign, led by People & Planet.
Laura Clayson, Climate Campaigns Manager at People & Planet, said: “A huge congratulations to the formidable RGU Go Green for securing this victory! Robert Gordon University’s commitment to Fossil Free is a massive win for both Aberdeen and the wider Fossil Free movement. It means that all universities in the ‘Oil Capital of Europe’ are committed to the just transition that we so desperately need, and that frontline and Indigenous communities have been demanding for decades.
This shows too that universities in Scotland are committed to a fossil free future, which we hope heartens those resisting the government-backed Rosebank oil field off Shetland. We look forward to Robert Gordon excluding border industry companies next, in recognition of the intersections between climate and migrant justice.”
Daniel Wagstaff, RGU Go Green President at Robert Gordon University said: “Robert Gordon University has been focussed on the energy transition and embedding sustainability throughout all its academic offerings for some time now. There is a real sustainability focus within RGU that involves all stakeholders, from the staff to the students and the community beyond. It has been fantastic to receive such a quick turnaround from RGU in terms of divesting from its fossil fuel investments.
We received support from People & Planet, submitted a union motion, and had an agreed divestment statement all within a year, credit to the importance that RGU is placing on sustainability. We look forward to continuing the work we have started and making RGU a sustainable, modern campus that serves the needs and desires of its students.”
Veronica Strachan, University Secretary and Vice Principal Corporate Services at Robert Gordon University, said: “At Robert Gordon University we are committed to playing an important role in the energy transition in the North East, UK and indeed across the globe through addressing skill needs and working with companies through collaborative research and knowledge exchange which drives environmental sustainability.
“While we are committed to working with the sector to deliver on its future energy ambitions, the University already directly invests less than 0.01% in oil and gas companies and will continue to divest itself of all investments in companies engaged directly in fossil fuel extraction by December 2025.”
Scott Herrett, Aberdeen Just Transition Organiser at Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Given the dominance the oil industry has in our city, in particular in our academic institutions, I believe the decision by RGU to divest from companies engaged in fossil fuel extraction makes a significant contribution by our city towards climate justice. Importantly it sends a clear message to oil and gas companies, especially based here in Aberdeen, that it's simply not ok to continue to drill for more oil and gas, especially in the North Sea. It sends a message to the young people in Aberdeen, that there is no future for them in the oil and gas industry, instead we need to be focusing on teaching, training our young people, and existing oil and gas workers in industries and jobs that bring about a fairer and fossil free world.”