A group of people holding a banner reading "Divest for Climate Justice"

The University of Northampton has become the 95th UK university to announce it is cutting its financial ties with the fossil fuel industry. The university will be divesting from fossil fuels, and is part of its wider work to move away from fossil fuels and towards net zero by 2030. The University of Northampton became the fifth university to announce its intention to divest from fossil fuels in 2022.

The commitment comes as the university updates its responsible investment policy to exclude fossil fuel companies from its over £100,000 investment portfolio. The policy now also states that investment managers must consider ‘protection of the global environment, its climate and its biodiversity including, but not limited to, the reduction and future elimination of fossil fuel exploration and production’.

Becky Bradshaw – executive director of estates & campus services at the University of Northampton, said,

Here at the University of Northampton, we are proud to sign the declaration and take this latest step in our established journey away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energies.

As part of our wider approach to improving sustainability, we had already taken onboard the challenge of carbon reduction by seeking to switch to electricity and natural gas use on our Waterside campus, investigating renewable energy generation, as well as reducing food waste and single use plastic within our catering facilities – achieving a 29% reduction in our carbon footprint for 2020/21.

There is a justified demand for the Higher Education sector to respond to the challenges of carbon reduction, and we’re glad to be on the front-foot and already taking significant strides towards reducing our carbon footprint.

The move has been welcomed by People & Planet – the UK’s largest student activist network, which leads the UK fossil free campaign in universities. Laura Clayson, Campaign Manager at People & Planet said,

Universities continue to divest their investment portfolios from the fossil fuel industry in recognition that these companies bear disproportionate responsibility for the climate crisis now unfolding around us. This move from the University of Northampton is important, spurred on by a national student movement acting in solidarity with Indigenous and frontline communities on the sharp end of climate injustice and fossil fuel extraction.

Over 1,500 institutions across the globe have now made public commitments to cut their financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. As a result, an estimated $40 trillion of investments have been withdrawn from the sector. Of that total, £15 billion has come from the UK higher education sector.

Such commitments have been made after consistent and sustained public pressure from grassroots activists and campaign groups. When People & Planet launched the UK wing of the Fossil Free campaign in universities in 2013, no higher education institutions in the UK had committed to divest from the fossil fuel industry. But after the University of Glasgow became the first to divest in 2014, almost 100 have now followed suit. Those universities represent more than 60 per cent of the UK higher education sector.

In addition to calling for universities to divest their funds from the industry, student campaigners – led by People & Planet – are now calling on university careers services to explicitly exclude oil, gas and mining companies from student recruitment.

J Clarke, Acting Director of Campaigns at People & Planet said, “Divestment from fossil fuel companies is a vital step for universities proving they take the climate crisis seriously. Just as importantly, we must see university careers services end the recruitment assistance they provide to the industries most responsible for environmental injustice: oil, gas and mining companies. It’s time for Fossil Free Careers.”

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Image credit: Fossil Free Manchester – Creative Commons