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

Robert Gordon University has become the 103rd higher education institution in the UK to divest from fossil fuels. The university is the second based in Aberdeen, a city known as the ‘oil capital of Europe’ due to its links with North Sea oil and gas.

Robert Gordon University has agreed to exclude all firms involved in fossil fuel extraction from its investments by updating its investment policy. This comes two years after the University of Aberdeen committed to divest from all fossil fuels in 2021.

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.”

The decision from Robert Gordon University comes after a year-long campaign from students at the university. The RGU Go Green group is part of People & Planet’s student network. People & Planet runs the fossil free campaign in the UK higher education sector. This is part of the wider global fossil fuel divestment movement.

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.”

The divestment movement seeks to get public institutions to withdraw their investments from the fossil fuel industry as a result of the sector’s role in driving the climate crisis. According to divestment campaigners, the campaign has played a key role in challenging the social license of the fossil fuel industry to operate as it does.

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 what they call an abusive system, by adding exclusions for border industry companies to its 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.”

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, £17.7 billion has come from the UK higher education sector.

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