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Trinity College to divest 95 per cent of fossil fuels investments by end of the year

They also hope to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

Trinity College have this morning announced they will be divesting all fossil fuel investments.

The college plans to divest from all fossil fuels in public equities, representing 95 per cent of their investments in this industry, by the end of this year. The remaining five per cent will be sold within a 5-10 year period.

A spokesperson from Trinity College told the Tab the college’s current direct investment in companies involved in the extraction or production of fossil fuels makes up just one per cent of their entire endowment.

Trinity have also committed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 in order to coincide with the 2016 Paris Agreement.

Trinity currently holds £15 million of investments in companies involved in the extraction or production of fossil fuels. This makes the college one of the worst-offending Oxbridge college in terms of financial investment in the fossil fuel industries, for which it has received large amounts of criticism from environmental groups, including Extinction Rebellion (XR).

According to a press release from the college, Trinity’s endowment will now have a “dual mandate” in continuing to deliver “sustainable income growth”, whilst also having a “significant, lasting and positive impact on improving its environmental footprint.”

The Senior Bursar, Richard Turnill said “climate change is an issue that matters deeply to Trinity […] We now have an ambitious plan to achieve net-zero before 2050, which, while challenging […] is achievable and consistent with the College’s income growth objectives.”

In order to reach net-zero by 2050, the college aims to “extend the list of investment exclusions to all companies that generate significant revenues from the extraction, supply or distribution of fossil fuel” as well as introducing ambitious five and ten year targets.

The college has also stated that they will commission a “detailed baseline study” of the current carbon footprint of their endowment by the end of April 2021. Following this commission, the college will then be able to outline their plans in August to reach net-zero.

The college also plans to conserve and promote further biodiversity which will be achievable due to their large stakes in property holdings representing 60 per cent of their endowment portfolio. The press release states that this portfolio will play a large role in the college’s effort to divest and leave a lasting, positive impact on the climate.

Master of Trinity College, Dame Sally Davies, said: “This new investment approach is a significant step in Trinity’s journey to addressing climate change […] The WHO cited climate change, along with pandemics, as one the key global health challenges of the 2020s and we at Trinity intend to bring together expertise both within and beyond College to play a greater role in further climate change action.”

In recent months, Trinity has come under fire for its mass investment in industries relating to fossil fuels, out of all Oxbridge colleges, Trinity has the largest financial holdings in these industries. Extinction Rebellion (XR) Cambridge also rated Trinity as the worst offending college, citing their £15 million directly and indirectly invested in fossil fuels.

The announcement comes following significant pressure to divest from both environmental groups and alumni.

XR most famously destroyed the green surrounding Newton’s apple tree outside of the college’s porters lodge in February 2020, and alumni.

Alumni of the college have also taken to activism to pressure the college into adjusting its investment portfolio by delivering an open letter signed by over 120 Trinity alumni in January of this year.

Trinity is not the only college that has come under fire due to their investment portfolios, with Jesus College also being targeted by protestors in recent months. Jesus is yet to make a commitment to divestment.

Pembroke College has recently made a commitment to full divestment from fossil fuels by 2023 following a popular open letter written by the Pembroke Climate Justice Campaign that received 215 signatures from current undergraduates.

Trinity College will now join 15 other Cambridge colleges, as well as the university as a whole, in committing to at least a partial divestment from fossil fuels. 

Trinity College has been contacted for comment.

Feature Image Credit: Lars Von Wedel – Trinity College, via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

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