As a proud alumnus of the University of Edinburgh, I’m concerned for its financial future following a recommendation made last week by leadership to divest its endowment of fossil fuels. When faced with the same dilemma, Harvard University president Drew Faust perhaps said it best in making the case against divestment: “The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”
With the largest endowment fund in Scotland and the third largest in the UK, Edinburgh could set a dangerous precedent by seeming to raise the concerns of climate activists at the expense of those who are researching real solutions – all while hurting our ability to generate scholarships and improve our services to students.
It is hard to see how the university’s funding will not shrink as a result of divestment. Those who claim otherwise may not be considering the difficulty in even defining what a fossil fuel stock is.
Does a clothing retailer not use fossil fuels somewhere along its supply chain to move its merchandise? Are automotive manufacturers not also developing greener cars?
Ahead of the university’s final announcement in May, I hope that common sense prevails and the decision is made to instead leverage its position as a shareholder in some fossil fuel-intensive companies to engage with board members. If not, I’m afraid that our status as a respectable research institution will be called into question, to the ultimate detriment of the student.