The University of Oxford is expected to decide on Monday whether to pull out its investments in publicly-traded fossil fuel companies, according to media reports. The university, which is the second richest in the U.K., has collective endowment assets of over $5 billion.
According to a report by BBC, the university has, in the past, received funds from Shell and BP for its research programs and labs. And Oxford's decision would follow nearly two years of campaigning by students. In recent months, responding to a global movement calling for public organizations to divest from fossil fuels, several leading universities, including Stanford University in the U.S. and Glasgow University in Scotland, have scaled back their investments in such companies.
“The university has carried out a consultation on these requests and council will discuss the matter further on Monday … We will make a further announcement if a decision is made,” a spokesman for Oxford reportedly said. The matter is scheduled to be discussed by the 25-member University Council Monday.
Miriam Chapman, a student campaigner at Oxford University, reportedly said that the decision could “make climate history.”
The organizers of the Oxford University Fossil Free Divestment Campaign, launched in 2013, said, in a statement published on their website: “Climate change, caused by emissions of greenhouse gases from burning oil, gas and coal, threatens the lives and livelihoods of billions of people around the world … we believe that any investment in fossil fuel companies is currently not socially responsible. Additionally, fossil fuel assets are overvalued, potentially threatening part of University’s investment portfolio with devaluation.”
Chapman reportedly urged the university to “hear the voices of its students, academics and alumni calling for action on climate change, and an end to investment in fossil fuels.”
The news comes just weeks after a report, published in the journal Nature, warned that if the rise in global temperatures is to be kept below an internationally agreed 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) safety limit -- a goal that many scientists have already deemed unattainable -- most of the world’s untapped fossil fuel reserves will have to stay in the ground. This includes 80 percent of the current coal reserves and 80 percent of the potential shale gas reserves in the U.S., Africa and the Middle East.