Extinction Rebellion launch divestment campaign against University of Cambridge

‘We cannot and will not wait any longer’

Extinction Rebellion Cambridge and Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge have launched their ‘No More Excuses’ campaign, in which they demand that the University and its colleges fully divest and “cut its ties to the fossil fuel industry”, and that they announce their plans to do so by the end of this month. The commitments to meet XR’s demands “must be fulfilled by the end of 2020”.

At Extinction Rebellion’s calculation, the University “still invest approximately 6.4% of their endowment funds in fossil fuel companies”, which is estimated to be over £400 million. They demand that the University and its colleges “divest from and make no future investment in” the following: all fossil fuel industries, “all companies involved in biodiversity destruction or degradation”, the arms trade (described as “one of the biggest users of fossil fuels and facilitators of the industry in the world”, “intensive animal farming” and “all other ecocidal companies and industries”.

They then ask that the opportunity is used to “reinvest ethically”, in companies and industries that, among other things, “produce zero or very low levels of greenhouse gases or pollutants of any form”, “have a positive impact on biodiversity”, “uphold all human rights, avoiding all kinds of exploitation” and “uphold animal rights”.

Extinction Rebellion have also released a YouTube video, in which XR campaigners, among them Cambridge alumni, students and staff – including Emmanuel College fellow and prominent environmentalist Robert Macfarlane –  highlight the damage that the fossil fuel industry is doing to the planet, and outline Extinction Rebellion’s demands. The end of the video features lists of the Cambridge colleges that have fully, partly, or not divested. As of 11th July 2020, the only two colleges that have fully divested are Clare Hall and Queens’, and Downing, Emma, Jesus, Peterhouse and Selwyn have partially divested, with direct investments only. All other colleges are non-divested.

In the video, Bill McKibben, environmentalist and leader of 350.org, a movement that aims to end the use of fossil fuels, said that ‘It is clear that the University […] can’t pay attention to the science because it is in the thrall of the very industry that is destroying our planet”. Extinction Rebellion say that, in addition to their investments, the University “carr[ies] out research enabling the industry to drill for more oil in environmentally sensitive areas” and “give [fossil fuel companies] social licence by naming many buildings, scholarships, professorships, and awards after them”.

Over half of UK universities have already divested, including Oxford, who did so in April this year. XR say that “It is time for [Cambridge University] to listen to their constituent parts and the city and world they exist in”, and that if the University continues “to ignore the needs of the society they exist to serve, the only reasonable response is a campaign of non-violent direct action”. Students, staff and groups including the Cambridge Zero Carbon Society and XR Youth Cambridge have already been calling for divestment for five years, but XR say that ‘At every stage they have faced resistance […] from senior management and the opaque Investment Office. University democracy has failed”.

In a statement, Emily Ashton, a Clare College alumna and XR Cambridge member, said that “We demand that [the University] use their power, wealth and influence to positive effect, rather than perpetuating the destruction caused to humans, animals and ecosystems by fossil fuel and other extractive industries.”

A University spokesperson, in response to XR’ latest campaign, has told the Tab: “The University of Cambridge has already cut all direct investments in fossil fuels and recruited a Sustainable Investment Officer. In December, Cambridge extended its leadership in seeking solutions for decarbonising the global economy by co-founding the Responsible Investment Network – Universities (RINU).”

Extinction Rebellion end their statement by saying that “We cannot and will not wait any longer”.

All images  from YouTube.