Zero Carbon Society lead rally as divestment activism escalates

Image credit: Anna Curzon Price

Over a hundred students are marching with Cambridge Zero Carbon Society today against the University's continued investment in fossil fuels, despite previous statements indicating a move towards more renewable sources of energy.

Over the course of the last week, more than 1000 students and 300 academics have signed the Society's latest petition urging the University to abandon its fossil fuel investments. Signatories include Sir David King, until recently the UK’s permanent special representative for climate change, and Thomas Blundell, the former president of the UK Science Council. Local Labour MP, Daniel Zeichner, and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams have also shown support for the Society.  The petition was handed over to Toope this morning.

The petition calls for student and academic-led action to counter the "unacceptable" subversion of democratic structures against the University's own values expressing a commitment to sustainability. Numerous other UK universities such as Bristol, Durham and Edinburgh have already made the step towards full divestment.

One of the academic signatories, Dr Drew Milne, called on the University to "put their money where their science is" and divest "as soon as possible", mentioning the increasing amount of evidence linking fossil fuels to climate change. Robert Macfarlane, also a Cambridge academic, commented that “if it fails to divest, Cambridge will be on the side of dirty money over a sustainable future.”

"Why is Cambridge not following the lead of Stanford and Edinburgh universities, and of the whole of New York City?” he continued.

Last year's Paradise Papers leak revealed that Cambridge had invested tens of millions into offshore funds linked to oil exploitation and offshore drilling. In January 2017, Regent House passed a Grace with unanimous support, calling for the University to fully divest from fossil fuels. University Council approved the Grace, and established a divestment working group. However, Zero Carbon has criticised this move as a "placatory gesture", which now looks set to reject divestment in favour of reaffirming a two year old promise to divest from coal and tar sands.

However, the University has received money from several oil companies including BP, ExxonMobile and Shell, and has employed former oil company bosses to work on the University Council's divestment panel.  Campaigners estimate that the University has received £377m from these companies, with the money invested in fossil fuel firms both directly and indirectly.

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