Download full report
The report wants to draw attention to the need, pragmatism, and positive impact of divestment from fossil fuels. At the same time it highlights the opportunities for social and environmental-sound reinvestment, presenting numerous and detailed case studies on previous divestment success stories in other referent institutions across the world.
Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, signs the foreword to the report stressing that: “There is a clear disconnect between the burning of fossil fuels and achieving the promises of the Paris accords. The only way we are going to honour such commitments is by making a decisive shift away from non-renewable energy, which emits vast quantities of CO₂ into our atmosphere.” “The Divestment campaign is therefore a significant part of the battle against climate change, […] this action will send the signal that the University is behind a radical, environmentally friendly agenda”
The publication of this report comes as the University-baked Divestment Working Group is deliberating on the pros and cons of divestment. With this document, Zero Carbon wants to clearly show the feasibility of divestment, and demand that the Working Group listens to the University membership, recommends divestment from fossil fuels, and starts working towards a 5-year plant to achieve this goal.
Read more on Varsity’s article covering the news.
For the last year and a half, Cambridge Zero Carbon Society has been campaigning for the University to divest from fossil fuels. This comes at a time where climate change is already having devastating effects on the natural world and the people that inhabit it. Fossil fuel companies operate under a model that depends on the continued extraction and consumption of fossil fuels, which is dangerously unsustainable. Furthermore, carbon shares are becoming increasingly less viable, and therefore it is the University’s moral and economic responsibility as a leader and renowned educational institution to divest.
Cambridge Zero Carbon Society has been working through official channels to lobby for divestment. In 2015-16, the ACBELA working group discussed divestment but did not advocate a serious enough response to our demands for full divestment. In January 2017, a Council Grace resolved that “that none of the University’s Endowment Funds should be invested directly or indirectly in companies whose business is wholly or substantially concerned with the extraction of fossil fuels”. However, in an unprecedented subversion of the democratic process, Council is not following through with the decision to divest from fossil fuels and blocking the plans to achieve divestment.
We understand that Council intends to commission a Report into the pros and cons of divestment. We do not consider this to be a satisfactory course of action considering the requirements of the Grace. Therefore, Cambridge Zero Carbon Society makes the following demands:
1. Cambridge University Council should publicly announce that is it committed to divestment, and that it is investigating how divestment is to be achieved.
2. As the Grace states, the Report must include an account of how divestment will be achieved at the University of Cambridge. It is only with a clear outline of how Cambridge University will divest that the possible impacts can be established.
3. Representatives of both Cambridge Zero Carbon Society and signatories of the Grace from Regent House must be part of the working group for the Report.
4. The working group for the Report must commit to full accountability and transparency. The group should keep publicly accessible minutes, published well in advance of future meetings.
5. When the working group seeks student consultation, it must commit to doing so fairly and not at a time that would put students at a considerable inconvenience to participate. We ask that the consultation does not take place out of term time, and particularly not during the summer vacation.
6. The timeframe for the Report must take into account the urgency of the climate crisis. The Report must conclude within twelve months of the passing of the Grace.
If these demands are not met and Council continues to subvert the University’s democratic decision, we will be forced to change our tactics and escalate our campaign by taking direct action.
Cambridge Zero Carbon Society
Don’t know your Regent House from your University Council?
What exactly is a Grace?
Cambridge University’s decision making processes can be pretty confusing. As a result, it can be hard to ensure that those involved in these processes are held to account.
We made this video to explain how the system is supposed to work, and why Council’s response to the divestment Grace is so unprecedented;
Our divestment campaign made it into the Financial Times!
You can read the article here. (You can only read the article once before you hit a paywall).
We’ve also received widespread coverage in student press, and we hope that this continued media scrutiny will maintain pressure on Council to respect the University’s democratic decision making process.
Over the last week we’ve seen a huge victory for our campaign – Regent House passed a Grace committing the University to divest from fossil fuel companies. This is great news, and we hoped it would mean a complete success for our campaign.
Unfortunately, the University Council have decided that this Grace is only ‘advisory’, despite there being no indication of this in either the Grace itself or the University’s Statutes & Ordinances. In fact, the opposite is the case – the Statutes clearly intend that Regent House is the supreme decision making body of the University.
The Grace was signed by 140 Fellows of the University, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Here’s what it said;
“That the Regent House, as the governing body of the University, resolves that none of the University’s Endowment Funds should be invested directly or indirectly in companies whose business is wholly or substantially concerned with the extraction of fossil fuels, and requires the Council to publish a Report to the University within twelve months setting out how this is to be achieved”.
We think this is pretty clear. Council’s response; offering yet another working group investigating the pros and cons of divestment, is simply not good enough.
Students and academics are united on this issue; the University must stop investing in climate change. Council are sorely mistaken if they think they can bury this issue in reports and opaque working groups.
You can find out more about Regent House here;
The Graduate Union has joined calls for the University of Cambridge to stop investing in fossil fuels. The motion, which called for “the GU to support a policy of divestment of the University’s investments”, was passed by a margin of 9 – 2 at a GU Council meeting on Monday. This brings the GU into line with CUSU [the undergraduate student union], who passed a similar motion last year by a margin of 33 – 1.
Several students attended in order to make arguments in favour of divestment. However, as no students or MCR representatives wished to make a a speech in opposition, the motion moved quickly to a vote. Chris Galpin, who proposed the motion, was pleased by the result; “It’s great that the GU has chosen to back divestment by such a significant margin. The divestment campaign has achieved a completely unprecedented level of student engagement over the past year, and we hope that the University will work with students to ensure its investments reflect the same values as its teaching.”
The Divestment Campaign at Cambridge has gained momentum over the last year, finding widespread support amongst both students and academics at a recent meeting of the University’s governing body, Regent House. Last year, Cambridge Zero Carbon launched a petition which received the signatures of over 2,300 university affiliates, and organised a march through Cambridge which was attended by approximately 300 people, making it one of the largest student campaigns at the University in recent years.
It is widely expected that academics will call for a vote on divestment in the near future. This new declaration of support from the Graduate Union will only increase pressure on the University to strengthen its policies on ethical investment.
The wording of the motion passed was as follows;
That the GU support a policy of divestment of the University’s investments, both direct and indirect, from companies whose business is wholly or substantially concerned with the extraction of fossil fuels.
That the GU support attempts by members of the University to bring a policy of divestment from fossil fuels to a vote at Regent House.
Students from Zero Carbon Cambridge made the case for divestment from fossil fuels at a recent Discussion held by the the University’s governing body, Regent House. They were joined by supportive academics, resulting in an overwhelming show of support for divestment.
This Discussion is expected to lead on to a Regent House vote (“Grace”) next term. Zero Carbon is currently helping to collect signatures for this Grace – If you are a member of the Regent House and would like to find out more, please get in contact with us.
A full transcript of the discussion can be found in the 30th November edition of the Reporter.
Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, CUSU BME Campaign and CUSU Women Campaign organised this action in solidarity with the StopRampal-SaveSundarbans movement in Bangladesh, which is fighting to protect the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, and all the communities and wildlife dependent on it, from destruction by the fossil fuel industry and autocratic government. We expressed our support through a cycle rally, a form of protest that has gained popularity in the StopRampal movement in Bangladesh, and wearing tiger face-paint, in tribute to the Royal Bengal Tanger, a species the Rampal project places in grave danger. This protest is part of a broader push to get Cambridge University to remove its considerable investments from the fossil fuel industry.
You can find more detail about the StopRampal-SaveSundarbans movement, along with more photos from the protest, on our facebook page.
Photo-credit: Charlotte Ottoway, Faria Tabassum, Juneyna Frances Kabir, Raiyan Binte Rafiq, Elise Nyborg
Check out this article in The Independent for extended coverage of the University of Cambridge’s decision on fossil fuel divestment.
Though Zero Carbon welcomes the University’s blacklisting of coal and tar sands companies, this decision has not gone far enough. The University’s rejection of divestment from oil and gas companies contradict it’s own mission statement, citing “concern for sustainability and the relationship with the environment.”
It is increasingly clear that fossil fuel companies are not part of a liveable future and that shareholder engagement has not, and will not succeed.
The fight will continue next year. #DivestCambridge