Cambridge better than Oxford in terms of climate impact

On average, Cambridge colleges scored higher when ranked in terms of their efforts to minimize their impact on the climate


The Climate League of Oxford and Cambridge – a joint effort between the Oxford and Cambridge SUs – has graded each Oxbridge college on the basis of their impact on the climate. These grades were defined by the boundaries used for A Levels: U (<40%), E (40-49%), D (50-59%), C(60-69%), B (70-79%), and A (80% and up).

Of the 68 Oxbridge colleges, the highest score achieved was a C by Jesus College, Cambridge. 57 Oxbridge colleges received a U.

The Cambridge colleges are listed as follows (Credits: Oxcam cloc via Twitter)

Colleges were assessed using four criteria: decarbonisation (35 points), divestment (30 points), delinking (20 points), and governance (15 points). Their total score was calculated by summing individual scores in each criteria.

Decarbonisation involved minimizing the college’s own emissions. Colleges were asked how much carbon they currently emit (their carbon baseline) and what their plans to reduce emissions are. They were also asked whether they had a public target date to achieve zero carbon emissions.

Divestment looked at the colleges’ investment assets. If any given college was moving its assets away (“divesting”) from fossil fuel companies, it received a higher score.

Delinking focused on separating the college from fossil fuels, “by refusing gifts and donations from fossil fuel companies or banking with fossil-fuel-friendly banks.” Colleges that publicly refused to accept gifts and donations from fossil fuel companies received 10 points. The same number of points were awarded to colleges that pressured their banks to “distance themselves from fossil fuel companies.”

The governance criteria evaluated whether a college had committees that discussed environmental policy. Depending on these committees’ goals, methods, and power, they were classified into four tiers: “excellent,” “good,” “need for improvement,” and “no relevant committee.” These received 15, 10, 5 and 0 points respectively.

Further details on the assessment criteria can be found here.

CLOC suggests that its mission is to “highlight the leaders rather than shame the laggards.” Nonetheless, it argues that “those colleges scoring poorly need to question whether they are doing a disservice to the young people they are set up to serve.”

The organization also commented on select Cambridge colleges.

Downing College’s Green Strategy was lauded as “highly detailed compared to most college’s efforts, including concrete data contextualised with specific target dates [sic].”

New Court at St John’s College, Cambridge. Image credits: Jean-Christophe BENOIST via the Creative Commons Licence

St John’s College was similarly celebrated for its “highly detailed carbon reduction strategy.” CLOC called for “an earlier net zero date” but accepted that the college was “doing comparatively well.”

Meanwhile, it argued that St Edmund’s College’s carbon reduction strategy “would benefit from more concrete detail.” The college was otherwise characterized as “lacking information on delinking, governance or decarbonisation.”

CLOC provided no comments on either the highest- or the lowest-scoring Cambridge colleges: Jesus College and Murray Edwards College respectively.

When contacted for comment, Murray Edwards College said that “we do not recognise the CLOC score as being remotely accurate. The College’s policies and their implementation, for example on meaningful divestment and green initiatives, all point to a vastly different picture from the one painted by the questionnaire and the league table.”

The college also encouraged readers to “find out more about what the College is doing here.”

The University of Cambridge, and all the colleges that were rated ‘U’ were contacted for comment.

Feature image credits: Rosie Smart-Knight

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