NGO Report Highlights Deep Ties between British Universities and Fossil Fuels

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Written By: Emma Websdale

London’s Imperial College receives more funding from the fossil fuel industry than any other UK university, receiving £17.3 million (US$28 million) in 2013 alone from fossil fuel giants Shell and BP.
1330117535According to a new report compiled by NGOs including People and Planet, and Platform, British universities have invested a total of £5.2 billion ($8.4 million) into the fossil fuel industry — the equivalent of £2,083 ($3,366) for every student.

The report, entitled Knowledge and Power – Fossil Fuel Universities,’ has found that London’s Imperial College has already received £17.3 million ($28 million) from Shell and BP alone in 2013, while 9.1% of the value of their shares was directly invested into fossil fuel companies.

The report also cited Oxford University for its heavy ties to the fossil fuel industry. Perhaps not surprisingly, with over 50% of the university’s grants coming from fossil fuel companies channeled through its Institute for Energy Studies, the report found that only three of the institute’s 250 published papers focused on renewable energy sources.

Another university highlighted by the report was Cambridge. In 2000, BP endowed Cambridge with £23.1 million ($37.3 million), which was, at the time, the largest grant from fossil fuel companies, to conduct research on how to improve the flow of oil in pipelines.

Calling on universities to create a higher education sector free of fossil fuels, the new report asks to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies and to exclude any new investment in fossil fuel companies and to s to exclude fossil fuel companies from their pension fund portfolios or switch to fossil-free pensions. Furthermore, the report calls upon British Universities to phase out fossil-fuel research and place a larger focus towards research on climate solutions.

“Severing our ties with the companies digging up the carbon won’t bankrupt them –but it will start to politically bankrupt them, and make their job of dominating the planet’s politics that much harder”, said environmentalist Bill McKibben.

He added, “Universities have a central role to play in this regard, since they are one of the few places in our civilization where reason still stands a good chance of prevailing over power.” 

The release of the report coincides with the start of a divestment campaign in Europe, led by prominent environmentalist and co-founder of, Bill McKibben and executive director of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, who have been responsible for one of the fastest growing divestment campaigns in the world.