Queens’ divests away from carbon intensive industries

Edmund Crawley 11 July 2018
Credit: Azeira

Queens’ has followed Peterhouse to become the second college in Cambridge to both endorse and implement full-scale divestment away from “carbon intensive industries”. This comes just days after the university of Loughborough agreed to move its investments out of fossil fuel based companies.

It is hoped that this decision will put added pressure upon the University Council, who last month released a statement explaining that they would not pursue divestment due to both the complexity of pulling out funds, and also because doing so “would result in significant limitations on the CUEF’s ability to invest as successfully as in the past” leading to less academic resources. This came in the wake of several performative protests, open letters from academics, and vocal support for divestment from high-profile figures such as John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas and Rowan Williams.

A Cambridge Zero-Carbon Society spokesperson said that, in light of the decision by Queens’, “the University’s excuses now lie in tatters – if Cambridge colleges can divest, then so can the University. Divestment isn’t just a democratic and scientific imperative – it’s an eminently achievable step too.”

Equally optimistic was Chris Saltmarsh, Co-Director of Climate Change Campaigns at People & Planet, who said that, “the divestment snowball keeps on rolling. In the same week as Loughborough University’s full divestment, Queens’ College, Cambridge joins two other Oxbridge colleges and 68 UK universities to divest from fossil fuels, making it clear the industry which drives and profits from climate crisis has no place in our educational or social life.”

The details of the move were outlined in a press release given by Elston Consulting, the company tasked with overseeing the divestment, which explained that investments in fossil fuel companies within the roughly £86 million endowment would henceforth be withdrawn. With the help of Elston Consulting, investments will now be moved into ESG (environmental, social and governance) screened companies. Though never named, the statement hints towards the likelihood that the college’s decision was motivated by the activity of the Cambridge Zero-Carbon Society. It says in the statement that “Elston Consulting…was tasked by the Investment Committee to respond to the concerns of the divestment lobby” and also that “the college is, in part, responding to vociferous debate with students around complete divestment from carbon-intensive industries”. It is therefore understandable why one spokesperson called “this divestment…a victory for Zero Carbon Society and grassroots student organising.”

Following the Queens’ decision, Angus Satow, Press Officer for Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, produced this concluding statement: “now is the time for Cambridge University and its colleges to listen to what their students, staff, science and now even colleges are telling them, and divest from fossil fuels. The tide is turning against the industry most responsible for fuelling climate breakdown. If University management refuse to realise that, then they are not fit to be running this institution.”