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🔈🔈NEW ZERO CARBON REPORT REVEALS EXTENT OF CAMBRIDGE’S LINKS WITH FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY🔈🔈
This morning we have released a report investigating the wider links between the University of Cambridge and the fossil fuel industry. We found that it is not only through the investments of its endowment that our university supports and legitimises the destructive practices of the fossil fuel industry. The University also assists fossil fuel companies through extractive research, by acting as a platform for their greenwashing, and creating a revolving door for fossil fuel executives and university officials. Here are our most shocking findings:
❗️ The University of Cambridge has received over £18 million in research funding from fossil fuel companies since 2001, £12.8 million of which was received between 2015-18.
❗️ The BP institute is a large research facility affiliated with the University with an explicit focus on multiphase flow in oil pipes.Technology developed at the Institute has contributed to increased profits from fossil fuel extraction of $300 million-3 billion per year.
❗️ CASP is a research group affiliated with the Department of Earth Sciences whose primary goal is finding and characterising new oil reserves across the globe. Its projects are funded by annual subscriptions by fossil fuel corporations. CASP is also a registered charity.
❗️ Fossil fuel companies sponsor a number of named professorships including the BP Professorship of Chemistry, the Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering, and the Schlumberger Professorship of Complex Physical Systems.
❗️ The University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Enterprise and Business Relations, Andy Neely is also a consultant to BP.
❗️ 5 members of the University’s Finance Committee have links with the fossil fuel industry.
Given the imminent danger of the climate crisis we as a society believe it is unacceptable and immoral for our university to continue supporting the fossil fuel industry in so many ways. Following our investigation we are making the following demands of the University of Cambridge:
❌ Stop accepting donations and research grants from fossil fuel companies
❌ Stop accepting sponsorships and advertising from fossil fuel companies
❌ Stop inviting fossil fuel companies to careers fairs hosted by the University or its constituent faculties
❌ Stop awarding honorary fellowships and inviting fossil fuel executives to speak on academic platforms
BY 2021 –
❌ Remove named branding of fossil fuel companies in buildings, departments, prizes, scholarships and academic appointments
❌ Cut all extractive research conducted by the University
❌ Establish a programme to find alternative modes of funding for researchers
❌ End formal consultancy and training of fossil fuel companies and halt fossil fuel commercialisation of academic research
❌ Divest fully from fossil fuels and reinvest in climate solutions
Read the full text of our report here.
This week, Cambridge opened our campus wide open for BP to recruit its future engineers and managers. And it was not a single petty event; BP organised a full day recruitment programme at the Department of Chemistry on Monday, and a recruitment reception on Tuesday evening at Clare College. The latter included “BP student brand ambassadors” who were paid a bonus if they brought along sufficient fellow students or directed enough students to the BP website.
Cambridge benefits from the destruction of the planet not only through its investments, but also through its research and recruitment partnerships with the fossil fuel industry. The University and its colleges should stop legitimising Shell, BP and other oil giant companies, and not allow the fossil fuel industry to recruit on campus. The University’s complicity is appalling in a time when the climate crisis is spiralling out of control.
In 2019 alone, Cyclone Idai has ravaged southern Africa, wildfires have devastated indigenous lands in the Amazon and destroyed swathes of untouched ecosystems in Siberia. Hurricane Dorian stalled over the Bahamas reducing half of the archipelago to rubble, and currently Japan is suffering one of its worst cyclones. Thousands of lives have been lost, millions of people have been displaced, and millions of livelihoods have been destroyed – all while Cambridge continues its romance with the fossil fuel industry.
Our poorest and most marginalised communities suffer the worst consequences of a climate crisis produced by a neoliberal, capitalist system that serves only a small elite, concentrated in the Global North. This elite includes our University. This is the climate injustice.
These inequalities and injustices did not, however, start with climate change, they started long ago. The same communities and lands that are sacrificed today under climate injustice, have suffered for 500 years under colonialism.
BP’s history is indissociable from the British Empire’s colonial history of global oppression, exploitation and dispossession. BP was first founded as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company in 1908 to exploit the oil resources of the Middle East for the British Empire. This colonial history is still palpable today through enduring proxy conflicts in Syria, Rojava and Iraq, and the occupation in Palestine. As recently as 2003, BP was found to lobby the British government behind the scenes to secure a licence for the biggest oilfield in Iraq after the War. John Browne, a Cambridge alumnus, was CEO of BP at the time.
The collusion between the British State and BP continues up to the present day. In 2017 the UK trade minister lobbied Brasil for favourable oil licenses on behalf of BP and Shell. In 2019, the BBC revealed that BP was entangled in a £10 bn in a corruption case involving the Prime Minister of Senegal. BP’s neocolonialism has dire consequences for the populations of these countries.
The company’s climate record is just as stark. BP is responsible for 2.51% of global historic emissions, the 6th most polluting company in the World. In 2018, BP invested £500m in zero emission technologies – representing only 3% of its total capital investment. In contrast, it spent $1.45 bn in fossil fuel exploration. A recent study in Nature details how we cannot afford to build any new fossil fuel infrastructure if we are to keep a reasonable chance to avoid runaway climate change beyond 1.5ºC of heating. BP has known of the climate crisis for 60 years, and still continues to invest in more fossil fuel extraction against the odds of the survival of millions. BP is not part of the solution, it is the problem.
The capitalist ideals of consumerism, individualism and obsessive accumulation have not only led to this crisis. They have also deceived many of us into thinking that our individual actions were to blame, and that the solution involves doing changes in your lifestyle. Individual change is important, but it means very little if BP and 19 other companies go unchecked while alone being responsible for 35% of global emissions.
Here in Cambridge, the University must adopt a radical reduction in emissions, and we must all do what we can to change our lifestyles. But it will be just a platitude if we allow the University to train graduates that will go on to work 9-to-5 for the very industry chiefly responsible for environmental degradation and global heating. Just like John Browne and his predecessor David Simon who, after stepping down from BP, became one of the first external members of Cambridge University Council. Part of the fight for climate justice for the University and society at large is to provide alternative career pathways that do not depend on colonial and extractive industries. We, students, will not accept to choose between having a decent job after our degrees and the future of the millions currently affected by the climate crisis
This year will certainly be a turning point for the climate justice movement. The Youth Strikes and Extinction Rebellion have awoken millions of people around the World. We are no longer blaming ourselves, we are rising to change the system. And the system is very close to home, it’s right here in Cambridge’s complicity with the fossil fuel industry. We, staff, students and members of the community, are taking ownership of our University and we refuse to be complicit, we will kick the fossil fuel industry out of our campus.
Marcel Llavero Pasquina, Beth Bhargava
Today we publish the Divestment Mythbuster, a fully referenced report to clarify any arguments that you have heard advocating against divestment. In four short independent sections we cover myths such as:
1. “Divestment will impact the University research funding”
2. “Divestment will not have an impact on the fossil fuel industry”
3. “Shareholder investment is the way to influence Big Oil into taking action”
4. “Fossil fuel companies are part of the solution”
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
This week we set out our ‘Red Lines’ on environmental action and climate change, together with other campaigners around the UK as part of Go Green Week.
We worked together with a number of other student groups including CUSU Women’s Campaign and Cambridge Student Action for Refugees – thanks to everyone who took part! It’s really important to remind people that the climate crisis is not just an environmental problem – it’s also a huge threat to social justice.
Coverage in Cambridge News; http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/students-draw-red-line-under-12619013
Coverage in Varsity; https://www.varsity.co.uk/news/12209
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.