Despite sustained pressure from Cambridge Zero Carbon Society and the weighing-in on the debate by national news and politicians, Senate House has today ruled out divesting from fossil fuels.
The University, with its £6.2bn endowment, has recently found itself in the national spotlight over accusations of elitism and undemocratic internal processes. Yet, in spite of the public support of 16 MPs including John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas and Cantab Diane Abbott, the University Council has maintained its opposition to divest.
McDonnell and Abbott urged the university to be responsive to the “democratic voices of its students and staff”. “As a leading global educational institution”, the continued, “it must take decisive action to end its complicity in destructive climate change”.
Former head of the UK Science Council, Thomas Blundell, asserted that Cambridge should use its national influence to “take the lead” in the battle against fossil fuels.
The decision follows an increase in direct action by Cambridge Zero Carbon Society (CZCS) and their recent eviction from Greenwich House, as well as the scathing criticism of the Divestment Working Group Report by over 200 senior members of the University. CZCS have called for “resignations and governance review”.
A study published by Cambridge academics only this month forecasted that by 2035 a decline in the demand for oil and gas could severely damage the institution’s shares, potentially rendering them “stranded assets”. One of the study’s authors, Jean-François Mercure, commented that divestment from fossil fuels was both a “prudential and necessary thing to do”.
The University Council has announced that a final response would be published next week. But, with an ever-growing focus on the university’s internal politics, and with increasing momentum of Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, it is doubtful that this will spell the end to the divestment saga.