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The letter collectively calls for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change 

University of Exeter signs Global Climate Letter and halts investments in fossil fuel companies

The University of Exeter is one of nearly 250 higher and further education institutions who have signed a Global Climate Letter which will be presented at COP25 in Madrid on Friday 6th December and on Thursday 12th December during a UN event on Climate Change Education. A further 16,696 institutions are represented by network signatories.

The letter collectively calls for a drastic societal shift to combat the growing threat of climate change and for young people to be equipped with the knowledge, skills and capability to respond to the ever-growing challenges of climate change.

The letter goes on to say:

“We all need to work together to nurture a habitable planet for future generations and to play our part in building a greener and cleaner future for all.

“We are today committing to collectively step up to the challenge by supporting a three-point plan which includes: 

  1. Mobilizing more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation;
  2. Committing to going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest;
  3. Increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curriculum, campus and community outreach programmes.

“We call on governments and other education institutions to join us in declaring a Climate Emergency and back this up with actions that will help create a better future for both people and our planet.”

The University of Exeter recently published it’s environment and climate emergency plan developed by a team of experts alongside staff and student representatives.

The university committed to be carbon neutral by 2040 in terms of activities it directly controls (such as university vehicles and campus electricity) and by 2050 – or sooner – in indirect emissions (such as those associated with waste and products purchased). Specific recommendations within the report included cutting long-haul air travel by 50%, increasing recycling to 70% and halving plastic and paper use – all by 2025.

The expert panel also called for the university to divest from direct investment in fossil fuel companies and sign the SDG Accord which aligns the institution with the UN Sustainable Development Goals to take a holistic approach to balancing environmental, societal and economic goals.

The University of Exeter has acted upon both of these recommendations and on Monday 9 December will hold the first Environmental Emergency Board which will oversee the creation and implementation of a comprehensive delivery plan from January 2020.

Professor Sir Steve Smith Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter said:

“I am proud of the University’s commitment and leadership on the environment and climate emergency as undoubtedly one of the critical issues of our time. It is a major priority in terms of our research, education and global strategies and we will play a leading role locally, nationally and internationally to make the fundamental changes required.”

Andrew Connolly, Chief Financial Officer at the University and the lead on financial investments said:

“We have listened to the Environment and Climate Emergency Working Group members, including student representatives who have called for the University to stop any direct investments in fossil fuel companies. After careful consideration, we have instructed our investment fund manager, Rathbone Greenbank, to sell our 2 holdings in oil and gas companies so we are no longer investing in fossil fuel companies.

“Our investment policy continues to be to only invest in companies that demonstrate the highest standards of environmental and social behaviour and to require Rathbones to engage with companies to influence and hold companies to account for their environmental and social impact. The Presidents of the Students’ Guild and Student’s Union in Cornwall will continue to be involved in monitoring the ethical investment policy so they can have their say on the policy as it evolves over time.”

Professor Juliet Osborne, Chair of the Environment and Climate Emergency Working Group said:

“I am delighted that the University has acted quickly on a number of recommendations within the Environment and Climate Emergency Report. We know there is a lot more to do and transformative, rapid action is essential with change required across every aspect of university business: including infrastructure, strategy and culture.

“I want to thank students and staff for their support of the Working Group and urge everyone at the University to play their part so that we show leadership within our region, nation and across the globe.”

Date: 6 December 2019