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

The University of Portsmouth has announced it is set to divest from fossil fuels, having updated its ethical investment policy to exclude all fossil fuel industry investments.

Portsmouth becomes the 101st university to commit to divestment off the back of the long running Fossil Free campaign. 65 per cent of all UK universities have now made a divestment commitment. In the UK, the Fossil Free campaign in higher education institutions is coordinated by the student activist network People & Planet. The campaign seeks to get universities to terminate all investments in the fossil fuel industry, in recognition of the industry’s role in driving the climate and ecological crisis.

Paul Drohan, investment manager at University of Portsmouth, said: “Our divestment from fossil fuel forms a crucial part of our ambition of being a leading university in environmental sustainability. Our ethical and sustainable approach to investments means that organisations and countries that continue to profit from the extraction of fossil fuels are not aligned with these ambitions, and therefore won’t benefit from a relationship with us.

“More broadly, the University’s Ethical and Investment Statement affirms the alignment between attributes which are valued in potential investments, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in doing so seeks to support the University’s wider commitments to the SDGs.”

When People & Planet launched the UK wing of the Fossil Free campaign in universities in 2013, no higher education institution 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, dozens have followed suit. Now, two thirds of UK universities have divested from fossil fuel companies.

Across the globe, over 1,500 institutions 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 As a result, an estimated $40 trillion of investments have been withdrawn from the sector.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, £17 billion has come from the UK higher education sector.

Campaigners are now calling on the University of Portsmouth to divest from the border industry, by ending investments in companies involved in the surveillance, detention and deportation of migrating people. The campaign, Divest Borders, highlights the ties between universities and border industry companies which profit from displacement and conflict. Divest Borders has received endorsements from student unions across the UK, as students demand their universities end investment in the border industry. In October 2022 Cardiff Metropolitan University became the first UK university to announce the exclusion of the border industry from their investments.

Speaking on Portsmouth University’s decision to divest from fossil fuels, Laura Clayson, Climate Campaigns Manager at People & Planet, said: “It’s incredible to witness yet another university sever investment ties with this destructive industry. Excluding fossil fuel companies is fundamental to enacting meaningful solidarity with communities on the frontlines of both the climate crisis and those resisting fossil fuel extraction.

“Universities have a responsibility to address the harm they are complicit in through the companies held in their investment portfolios. That’s why we look forward to Portsmouth adding investment exclusions for the border industry next, in acknowledgement of the private companies profiteering from the hostile environment towards those who move.”

PS. We hope you enjoyed this article. Bright Green has got big plans for the future to publish many more articles like this. You can help make that happen. Please donate to Bright Green now.

Image credit: Fossil Free Greater Manchester – Creative Commons