College Council cleans up its act on fossil fuels – “We’ll divest.”

Fossil Free KCL gathers in the Strand quad to show support for divestment. (Credit: Ryan Chang)

King’s is the first in the UK to include sustainability as part of its investment policies.

The College Council has accepted recommendations from a student-led committee to divest away from thermal coal and tar sands – the ‘dirtiest’ forms of fossil fuels; as well as a proposal to invest 15% of King’s £179 million endowment into low-carbon, green and ethical funds.

The Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the recommendations brought forward by the Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee (SRIRC) yesterday – a committee made up of student campaigners, academic staff, and members of the senior membership team.

Dr. Tytus Murphy handed in the recommendations in person to the College Council. Speaking to Roar, he estimates that the divestment process will occur as soon as possible pending the necessary risk analysis by the investment sub-committee.

Members of Fossil Free KCL gathered at the Strand quad to show their support for divestment during voting. 

Anna Smith, a third year Liberal Arts student, said in a passionate speech: “Coming into my final year at King’s and having been involved in the campaign since its baby steps in my first year, I feel quite emotional to be here today.”

She added: “I hope King’s is listening to this message we are shouting loud and clear – that it is wrong to profit from the wreckage of our planet.”

Andrew, a 1st-year student present at the gathering, said: “Since King’s has quite a central and high political profile in the country as a university, it is only a sensible decision that the College chooses to invest more carefully.”

An FOI request submitted in 2013 by campaigning group, Fossil Free KCL, brought to light £8 million of King’s investments into companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, PetroChina and China Petroleum, and into environmentally damaging practices, such as tar sands and thermal coal.

“What’s important, is that universities are thought leaders in our society,” says Prof. Kevin Anderson, an expert in fighting climate change at the University of Manchester.

He added: “We can make a fundamental change ourselves and that sends a strong message to policy-makers and society in general.”

Timeline of King’s divestment campaign

October 2014 – Students and staff marched over the Waterloo Bridge to hand a 1000-strong petition to Vice-Principal Chris Mottershead.

February 2015 – Campaigners stage a flashmob in the Chapters canteen in a theatrical protest against King’s oil investment.

March 2015 – Principal Ed Byrne meets with Occupy KCL protestors. With regards to the protestors’ demands for responsible investment, Ed says “We don’t fundamentally disagree with you.”

November 2015 – The Socially Responsible Investment Review Committee (SRIRC) is set up to open a dialogue between students, staff, and senior management.

April 2016 – The Committee has its inaugural open meeting. VP Chris Mottershead says: “I agree wholeheartedly on this issue.

September 2016 – The College Council votes to act on recommendations by the Committee. Dr. David Morgan of the College’s finance subcommittee will oversee the divestment.

Correction: A source has asked to amend a quote. (29 Sept 2016)

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