University of Manchester to decarbonise its investment portfolio

The University of Manchester has announced that it will end investments in fossil fuel reserve and extraction companies by 2022, and ‘decarbonise’ all investments by 2038.

The changes to the University’s Socially Responsible Investment Policy go further than other fossil fuel divestment programmes as they include a commitment to reduce the carbon intensity of the overall investment portfolio by 30% by 2022, and then to move as quickly as possible to net zero by, at latest, 2038.

Carbon intensity is a measure of carbon efficiency, in which the total amount of carbon dioxide emission by a company divided by the level of its activity (as measured in value of their sales). The University will redirect its share investments from carbon-intensive companies to companies that are more carbon efficient (emit less carbon for their level of activity) and so encouraging the transition to a low carbon economy.

The changes to the Policy have been agreed after a wide consultation with staff, students and alumni earlier in the year which attracted nearly 600 responses. The Policy was developed in consultation with the University’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the Students’ Union.

Vice-President for Social Responsibility, Professor Nalin Thakkar said: “We will stop investing in companies that hold fossil fuel reserves or are involved in extraction by 2022.

“However, these account for only 3-5% of our total investments. Since most CO2 emissions do not arise from the direct activity of fossil fuel companies, but through the use of fossil fuels by others, we will also take the more ambitious step to shift our investments to carbon efficient companies. We believe this is a more radical, comprehensive and justified approach than disinvestment based on fossil fuel extraction alone.”

Manchester is the top ranked UK university in the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings. Overall, it is ranked second in Europe and eighth globally for the its social and environmental impact across its full range of functions, as measured against the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

In 2019 the University supported the UK Government’s declaration of the climate emergency and signed up to be part of Greater Manchester’s plastic free pledge and the city of Manchester’s zero-carbon target, which was also developed by the Manchester Tyndall Centre.

Professor Thakkar added: “We know these issues are important to our staff, students and alumni, and bringing benefit to society and the environment is at the heart of our University’s purpose. Although these are difficult times, through our research and teaching, and the ways in which we invest for our future, we can play a crucial role in an environmentally sustainable recovery from the pandemic.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester said: “I am delighted that after lengthy consultation and discussions, we can now launch our ambitious new investment policy and I am very grateful to all who have worked so hard on this.”

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