OXFORD University has agreed to halt all investment in fossil fuels following months of campaigning and prominent protests that saw students occupy St John’s College in January.
The institution is now required to cut all ties with fossil fuel firms and end future investments after the Congregation – the supreme governing body of the university, essentially consisting of all Oxford academic staff, and more senior academic-related staff – passed a long-awaited motion last week.
Activists from the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign were the first to highlight the university’s financial involvement with these companies.
The campaign earned great support from the student body and council, and was sponsored by 79 senior university figures.
The new policy requires that managers of the university’s endowment, which amounts to £3bn, must acquire evidence of ‘net-zero business plans’ from companies within Oxford’s portfolio of investments.
A new member will also be appointed to the university’s investment committee with expertise in climate-conscious investment.
In the lead up to this announcement the university gradually reduced its exposure to fossil fuels to 0.6 per cent of its funding.
The institution also announced plans to release a much wider and ambitious sustainability and climate strategy in the coming academic year.
The Oxford Climate Justice Campaign has been active and negotiating on divestment and climate-conscious investment since 2015 when it won a partial divestment of coal and tar sands.
It is now focused on the university’s sponsorships, research and careers-events with fossil fuel companies.
The new policy also follows a five-day student occupation earlier in the year at St John’s College over divestment which garnered attention and support from alumni.
Dozens of students had set up camps in the front its premises armed with banners and placards, to demand that the institution takes the climate emergency seriously .
Anna Olerinyova, a Dphil Student of Medical Sciences from St John’s College and a member of the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign, said: “The fact that the world’s top university is abandoning fossil fuels shows that the age of fossil fuels is rapidly coming to an end.
“We hope the message from Oxford to the world is clear – listen to the science, prepare for the future and ditch fossil fuels.”
Oxford University is now one of 79 of the UK’s 154 public universities that have joined the environmental campaign.
Professor Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of Oxford University, said: “Oxford is a global pioneer in many areas of environmental research and science, from climate economics to biodiversity, energy use, and climate change modelling.
“I am very grateful to all the staff and students who came together to develop this new and exciting agreement on investment which I warmly welcome.
“Coupled with our research strengths, our new approach will enhance our position as a world leader in reducing carbon emissions and tackling climate change before it is too late.”