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DIVESTMENT: What’s going on and do students actually care?

Divestment protests are happening today as University Council considers final report

It's unlikely, if you've been at all keeping up with the news in Cambridge, that you could have missed the controversy surrounding the University's investment in fossil fuels. Here are the updates on what's been going on, and the student engagement with this issue.

A brief background

When the Paradise Papers were leaked in 2017, it was revealed that Cambridge University had invested millions in offshore funds, and that along with Oxford, it had invested in a venture to explore deep sea drilling and oil exploration. Campaigners estimate that it has £377m invested in fossil fuels both directly and indirectly.

Cambridge's £6.3bn endowment fund is the largest in the world outside of the US, meaning that if the university does follow 800 other institutions and many other universities to partially, or fully, divest, this will be a significant achievement for those campaigning against investment in fossil fuels.

The executive arm of the university set up a working group to produce a report about the approaches the university could take around divestment, and the University Council will consider the final report today.

Student action

Cambridge University Zero Carbon Society have been the most vocal and prominent critics of the University's investment choice. In the last week, they have been increasing the pressure on the University to support divestment.

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Not exactly the most populated rally

Last Thursday around 15 members from the society stopped university staff from getting into the Finance Office in Greenwich House, West Cambridge, insisting that they have been following their 'moral imperatives'.

Zero Carbon Society have been trying to get more students and academic involved in the protest. Last week, over 1,000 students signed a petition online demanding divestment. The society also released an open letter signed by over 300 academics, with support from notable individuals like such as Sir David King, the former Chief Scientific Advisor to the Government, Professor Sir Tom Blundell, President of the UK Science Council, and Robert Macfarlane, a writer who is also a fellow at Emma.

Although these are achievements are signs that Zero Carbon are attracting support from across Cambridge, it is unclear as to how invested (pun not entirely intended) the wider student body is in the issue of divestment. The society organised a rally today to place pressure on the discussions taking place, but student engagement with it appears to be limited. Perhaps it's too much to ask of Cantabs to be at West Cambridge at 9:15am, after Sunday Life.

Further updates will be made when more about the University Council's discussion is known.