Joint statement on climate change and fossil-free investment

By Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, and Christy McMorrow, president of the University of Sheffield Students' Union.

Grantham Centre: blue earthAs politicians, policy makers, researchers and activists gather in Paris for the global climate change conference, the University of Sheffield and the Students' Union are committed to a shared effort to tackle climate change.

Crucial academic research on energy and food is being undertaken by many staff and students from across our faculties, including experts from the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures who are attending the conference in Paris. This includes a focus on scientific and engineering solutions to the great challenges of climate change, and new approaches to architecture, planning and landscape, as well as the national and international policy approaches that will be essential to meeting climate change targets.

Staff and students have also raised concerns about our endowment investments which support scholarships, bursaries and academic posts. The issue has been debated within the university and at its Senate and Council. As a result, the University has developed a new endowment investment policy that includes several socially responsible aspects, including a commitment to eliminate exposure to investments linked to explicit environmental damage. Given the overwhelming evidence of the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, this commitment will lead us to disinvest within the next academic year.

Bob Rabone, University of Sheffield Chief Financial Officer said:

"The announcement on climate change and investments follows an extended period of careful discussion across the University and by its governing bodies of Senate and Council, as well as listening to the concerns of staff and students on this crucial issue, including the campaign for universities to disinvest from fossil fuels.

"Earlier this year the University agreed an approach to an investment policy for the £39m of our endowment funds received from donors since the University’s inception. These funds are invested so as to retain their real value, whilst their income directly supports many scholarships, bursaries and academic posts.

"In July, our Council approved a new policy, with three key features: negative and positive investment criteria; a commitment to annually publish the investments we hold; and a positive statement regarding engagement with the staff and student community through their representatives on our governing bodies. The negative criteria are drawn as broadly as possible and so cover all environmental considerations, whether from fossil fuels or other activities. The policy simply says: '…eliminate exposure to [investments in]…explicit environmental damage.' Given the overwhelming evidence of the impacts of climate change in respect of any investment in fossil fuels, this will lead us to disinvest. The policy also includes several other important socially responsible elements.

"The University is committed to implement our new policy as soon as can be practically achieved and, subject to taking further advice, we agreed to report back to Council within this academic year. For reasons of efficient investment and pooled risk we invest in pooled funds. In practice this means we do not select individual company investments, so we will instruct our investment managers to carefully apply our specific criteria over the coming months, with full implementation expected within the next academic year."

Find out more

United Nations Conference on Climate Change: COP21

For the first time, the University of Sheffield is sending delegates to the UN climate change conference to meet industry leaders and influence the debate on sustainable energy and climate change.

Researchers from the University’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures and Energy 2050 will share their expertise on food security and sustainable energy to help the heads of state secure a new global deal to prevent global temperatures going more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Tackling climate change: interactive feature 

Grantham Centre programme of talks at COP21

Energy 2050 programme of talks at COP21


For further information please contact:

Clare Parkin
Media Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9851