Students from across Cambridge join up to campaign for all colleges to fully divest

‘This campaign is about ending this culture of colleges dragging their feet’

A new campaign has been launched calling on the rest of Cambridge’s colleges to fully divest from fossil fuels.

Cambridge Colleges Divest Now is a campaign joining up students from J/MCRs at colleges who still have ties to the fossil fuels industry to commit to full divestment and a publicly accessible ethical investment policy.”

The campaign has released a statement and open letter pressing the colleges to put their “significant financial and reputational capital towards positive investment in a greener, more ethical future.”

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(Image credits: Cambridge Colleges Divest Now)

The joint campaign was founded in the wake of an Ethical Affairs College Divestment Campaign meeting to share ideas and experiences with pushing for divestment within the colleges. 

Speaking on the importance of divestment, a spokesperson for the campaign told The Tab: “It is inexplicable and unjustifiable that some Cambridge colleges have failed to take any substantial measures to divest. Ultimately, these colleges have put profit above people and planet.” 

Students from a number of colleges – including both those who have announced plans for full or partial divestment and those who have not yet committed to divest – are involved in the campaign. 

A spokesperson for the campaign told The Tab that it is the “sheer number of students from a variety of colleges that provide the real value in this campaign” since this facilitates “shar[ing] knowledge, expertise and tactics” as well as “expressing solidarity and presenting a united front for a fossil-free Cambridge.”

They add the intercollegiate approach is also necessary to reflect the interdependence of colleges. A spokesperson told The Tab: “[C]olleges discuss, advise and look to one another in their decision-making. 

“A development at one college may considerably influence the situation at another and can shape the way those in positions of power perceive and treat the issue in question. It is important that we reflect this interdependence in our organising.”

This follows news last year that the university will remove all of its direct and indirect investments in the fossil fuel industry by 2030. 

Most recently, Trinity College has committed to divest from all fossil fuels in public equities by the end of this year and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, Pembroke College committed last week to divest fully from fossil fuels by 2023 after significant student pressure. 

This brings the total number of colleges committed to at least a partial divestment from fossil fuels to 16, with four of these having committed to full divestment. 

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(Image credits: @TRIScambridge via Twitter)

In an open letter, the joint campaign celebrates the successes of the Pembroke Climate Justice Campaign, whilst urging colleges that have not yet fully divested to “show moral leadership” and “take a united stand against industries that are quite literally fuelling the collapse of our life support systems.” 

Cambridge Colleges Divest Now is also calling on colleges with partial or indirect investments to cut ties with fossil fuels industries. The campaign alleges that “non-divested portions of these colleges’ portfolios often make up the bulk of their investments.” 

They point to the fact that Jesus still invests £46 million in “funds exposed to a whole host of fossil fuel investments” and that Selwyn “remains invested in Rio Tinto, a mining company which provoked an international outcry after destroying a 46,000 year old Aboriginal heritage site.” 

In terms of the direction of the campaign, a spokesperson told The Tab: “[T]he main aim is to provide solidarity and support to students campaigning on a college-level.” They point to the fact that many of the college-level divestment commitments have occurred “as a result of college-specific campaigns and J/MCR work.” The campaign hopes to build on these successes by “building connections between environmental activism at various colleges” so students can “share their expertise and experience.”

By doing so, the campaign hopes “students will be able to work within the existing systems and democratic structures (such as through J/MCR work) to persuade colleges to publicise divestment plans.” 

However, they said that if these attempts were unsuccessful they will “also look into planning direct protests next term, when students are back in college, in order to spur long-overdue action on climate breakdown.” 

However, the campaign also aims to go beyond full divestment to achieve climate justice, telling The Tab “full divestment is a hugely important first step, but doing so merely removes colleges from direct complicity with the fossil fuel industry.

“Truly pioneering sustainability at a Cambridge college would involve going much further, including committing to positive forms of wealth management, setting the target of reaching net-zero emissions by 2030, and opting to remove their money from banks like Barclays – which over half of the colleges currently bank with, and which is the largest fossil fuel funder in Europe.

“This campaign is about ending this culture of colleges dragging their feet, and instead getting them to commit to ambitious sustainability policies.”

Any students or staff interested in the campaign can sign the open letter here and get in contact with their campaign at [email protected]

When approached for comment, a Selwyn spokesperson told The Tab: “We condemn Rio Tinto’s actions in Australia, and note that they rightly forced the resignation of the CEO and other senior executives. The college reviews all its investments regularly and it will divest from companies which clash with the college’s values.”

Jesus College and the University Press Office were also contacted for comment. 

Featured image credits: Looshluz, via Creative Commons License and Cambridge Colleges Divest Now 

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