Vice-Chancellor Koen Lamberts has responded to criticism over the University of Sheffield’s failure to divest from fossil fuels, and recommitted to completing the pledge.

It comes after the University were criticized in recent weeks for their failure to move away from companies which make money from fossil fuels.

In a statement, the new Vice-Chancellor said he wanted to be clear about the University’s progress on the issue.

“I know that many of our students are keen to understand our current position around ethical investments,” Professor Lamberts said.

“Let me be clear straight away and tell you that the University of Sheffield has already been divesting from fossil fuel companies and is committed to completing this.”

University confronted

Picture: Juliet Cookson

Forge Press reported earlier this month that, according to their latest summary of investments, dated July 2018, the University still had ties with three companies who made money from fossil fuels.

Lamberts said they now only have one such investment, Royal Dutch Shell, and that they were still working to divest from that company, and complete the divestment project “as soon as possible.”

The University of Sheffield initially committed to divesting from fossil fuels in 2015, after a campaign by People and Planet at the Students’ Union, led by Chris Saltmarsh.

Along with a number of other universities nationwide, Sheffield committed to divesting by the end of the next academic year.

In a previous Twitter exchange with Mr Saltmarsh in January, the University said they followed the Ethical Investment Advisory Group guidelines, which state they shouldn’t invest in companies who receive more than 10 per cent of their income from fossil fuels.

The three companies they allegedly still had investments in, they said, were well below this threshold.

Credit: Ewan Somerville

Confronting the university on this, Chris Saltmarsh said in a tweet: “The university said they would be divesting from all fossil fuels. At no point was it just coal and tar sands.”

Lamberts’ statement continued: “The University is also developing an ambitious strategy around sustainability, which is due to be launched in the Autumn.” ,

He credited the work of student groups in encouraging the institution to look at how it can be more sustainable, both in its investments and around campus.

“Our University is full of passionate people, both students and staff, who are dedicated to making evidence-based change – on and off campus.”

Responding to the statement from the Vice-Chancellor, Mr. Saltmarsh said: “I’m pleased that the University has reiterated their commitment to fully divest, although it’s clear they have taken too long to exclude all fossil fuels from their investments.

“Pressure from students and alumni has successfully held the University to account … I hope students and alumni from elsewhere can take inspiration and pile the pressure on their universities to follow through and divest soon.”

Forge Press has approached the Students’ Union Officer team for a response.

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