Will University of Glasgow divest?

An update on the Fossil Free Divestment campaign ran by Glasgow University Climate Action Society.

Hopefully you will already know that back in December, the Glasgow University Climate Action (GUCA) Society brought a motion to the SRC Council asking for our support in their campaign to get the University of Glasgow to divest from the Fossil Fuel industry. The full motion which got passed by us can be accessed in our campaigns section: Fossil Free Divestment campaign

The SRC has the capacity to raise issues on students’ behalf in both the Senate and the University Court. The University has several governance bodies with Court and Senate being the most powerful. Court deals with administration, resourcing and strategic decisions while Senate deals with academic issues and student experience. We brought the motion to Court as it is the body responsible for the University’s ethical investment policy (More information about Court and who sits on it).

At the Court meeting held on 12th February, then SRC President Jessica McGrellis presented the motion, and Court agreed to establish a working group to consider the case for divestment. The working group involved two lay members of Court (Graeme Bissett and Murdoch MacLennan), one Senate representative (Marie Freel), one SRC representative (Donald Mackay) and the Secretary of Court (David Newall).

Three weeks ago I attended the Court meeting on June 25th. As I was not a member at the time, I attended in a spectating capacity only. It was at this meeting that the working group reported to Court with their recommendation on Fossil Fuel divestment. The working group has recommended that the University puts a freeze on new investments in oil, coal and gas, winds down its existing holdings over the next ten years, and where possible re-invests in green industries.

It is with great disappointment that I write that this recommendation did not pass at Court that day. This is in despite of the fact the entire working group was very much in favour of the case for divestment, being particularly impressed by the Climate Action Society’s campaign and the detailed case which they made. There were some members of Court who were strongly opposed to divestment. Some questioned how divestment would affect areas of university research sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, whilst others had concerns about the potential risk divestment poses to the University’s investment portfolio. Talks went on for over an hour.

Despite this setback, I was happy to see that Senior Management Group were in support of the motion. It is great to see them taking on board the views of students.

This campaign has been run with a great amount of planning, consideration and respect from GUCA. I am so proud of how they have fostered student activism on our campus, engaging students, and questioning where our students’ fees are really going. The SRC executive in total support of this motion, and will continue to argue in support of divestment at the next Court meeting.

In general, I think there is a lot more scope to develop the green agenda on campus. Emphasising the importance of sustainability and preventative climate change action to students can help us become active citizens. We currently run an Environmental Stewardship degree in our Dumfries campus and this motion would be a great show of support for these students, who are working hard to preserve habitats and ecosystems from the damages of climate change.

The motion is due to go back to the working group and Court members will be invited to ask questions regarding the motion, which will then come back to Court in October.

Below are some links to some media articles already written regarding our motion:

The Working Group will re-convene to consider concerns raised by a few Court members, and the SRC and GU Climate Action society have until Court in October to persuade them further of the arguments, build up even greater momentum on campus around the campaign, and mobilise towards a divestment win in the new semester.

If you want to get involved in the campaign then contact: glasgowuniclimateaction@gmail.com