Student Petition 2018

1250 students sign a petition in less than a week asking Cambridge University Council to listen to the democratic will of the members of the university and fully divest from fossil fuels.

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Cambridge University, listen to your members and divest from fossil fuels

With University Council due to makes its decision regarding divestment from fossil fuels imminently, we call on the University of Cambridge to listen to the overwhelming support of its members and:

1. Withdraw all investments – both direct and indirect – from fossil fuel stocks, bonds, and other investments over the next five years.
2. Commit not to invest in fossil fuel companies in the future.
3. Commit to establishing a more transparent, accountable and democratic investment policy.

Why is this important?

The democratic will of the University could not be clearer. Regent House, the University’s governing body and “the embodiment of the University as a democratic institution”, passed a grace committing the University to full divestment. Time and time again, academics have voiced their concerns. Student support has been unequivocal – CUSU Council voted unanimously for divestment in November 2017, with the Graduate Union also voting to express its support. JCRs at Christ’s, Peterhouse, Newnham, King’s, Magdalene, Sidney Sussex, Emmanuel, Selwyn and Churchill have all passed motions in favour of divestment. We believe that a University should listen to its members, rather than disregard their opinions.

As vice-chancellor Stephen Toope said himself, climate change is the most important ethical issue of our age. Since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought on by natural hazards. This is the equivalent to one person being displaced every second. Yet fossil fuel companies show no signs of changing their destructive practices. Their current reserves of oil, coal, and gas contain five times as much carbon as can ever be safely burned if we are to avoid runaway climate catastrophe.

With an endowment of £6.3 billion, of which an estimated £377 million is invested in fossil fuels, as well as internationally respected reputation, Cambridge University has a unique opportunity to send the message that we cannot keep funding climate change. Stephen Toope said that he wanted the University to be a “social leader” – divestment is the chance to fulfil that aspiration, and commit to a future that is sustainable, ethical, and committed to climate justice.

More than 60 universities across the UK have already committed to divestment, with Bristol, Durham and Edinburgh doing so in the past few months alone. The City of New York and World Bank have also announced they will divest, and for good reason: one Oxford Smith School study said that divestment movements had achieved legislative success in “almost every” historical case. As these examples, as well as a Cambridge Zero Carbon Society report from January 2018, illustrate, there are many different ways in which the University could go about divesting.

We urge Cambridge to respond to the will of its staff and students, and join the ranks of institutions across the world in divesting from fossil fuels.