Hundreds march for University divestment from fossil fuels, as more radical action is planned

Tom Richardson 30 April 2016

Students and supporters took to the streets on Saturday to demand the University and colleges divest from fossil fuel companies. Marchers progressed though the city centre, chanting an banging drums, before a rally outside Senate House where speakers included Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, who expressed his support for the Zero Carbon campaign leading the protest.

The University of Cambridge’s endowment is currently at £2.8 billion. It is pledged to invest this with “selflessness”. However, the Statement of Investment Responsibility allows the University to “balance against its primary responsibility considerations of the ethical nature of investments.”

Speaking to The Cambridge Student, Angus Satow, the outgoing leader of the campaign, expressed satisfaction with turnout, which was higher than for previous demonstrations, which attracted numbers in the dozens, noting that “in exam term, considering this is Cambridge that so many have turned shows how important this is to the student movement”.

It is unclear whether the action will be enough, however, to persuade the University Council to divest. Privately, a member of the Zero Carbon direct action group admitted to TCS they thought it was unlikely, considering the scale of investments in fossil fuels, which were estimated after the university refused to respond to a NUS request for information.

However, Satow’s successor, Alice Guillaume insisted the campaign would continue whatever the decision of the Council. Speaking to TCS, she argued that the popular central message of the campaign would sustain the campaign, noting widespread support both students and academics. When asked about her plans, she mentioned “we might have to take more radical measures” next year.

While some local residents beeped their horns in support, a bystander, who wished to remain anonymous, told TCS she thought the campaign was “too simplistic”. Questioning where the University would reinvest the money from fossil fuels, she accused the marchers of hypocrisy, asking “how many of these people never get in a car?”. When asked for her feelings about the march, she replied “crap”.

It was reported on Wednesday that Magdalene’s master, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, had expressed his support for the campaign.

The University is currently partaking in a 'wide-ranging' investigation, with officials, academics and students, into how the endowment is invested. It is believed to include investments into fossil fuels.