Cambridge Climate Justice demand fossil free research

Protestors rallied on King’s Parade after months of no action from university


Cambridge Climate Justice, a student-led environmental campaign, took to the King’s Parade on Friday (27/10) following months of inaction from the university. In July 2023, UN High Level Climate Champion for COP26 Nigel Topping authored a report (commissioned by the university) unequivocally calling for the university to end the acceptance of fossil fuel funding.

This rally occurs more than a year after dozens of Cambridge academics (now upwards of 200) signed the international open letter calling for fossil free research. Since the letter was signed in spring 2022, Cambridge Climate Justice have occupied the former BP institute, two graces have been proposed to the University Council and an independent inquiry denouncing the acceptance of fossil fuel funding by the university was published in July earlier this year with still no end in sight.

Image credits: Marine Mercier for Cambridge Climate Justice

Protestors at the rally included SLB Out campaigner Will Bajwa, who commented that it is ongoing research in Cambridge causing “global destruction”. The SLB institute on the West Hub site is a major oilfield service provider which Bajwa claims “actively boasts about how they are able to drill in protected areas in the Amazon rainforest, in the lands of indigenous peoples”, something he wants to be part of the fight against.

Cambridge Climate Justice campaigner Sam Gee, who studies Natural Sciences, commented in his speech that those who have “profited extortionately” from causing harm cannot be trusted to “provide the solutions to the crisis they themselves have caused.” This comes following the decision of the University Council to delay voting on the original Fossil Free Research grace in favour of a report, and further delays despite 73 academics submitting a grace to the University Council asking for the decision to be voted on.

Image credits: Marine Mercier for Cambridge Climate Justice

Academic Emily Sandford, an astrophysicist, claimed that the university seemed to be acting in a way that denied the scientific consensus on the use of fossil fuels, but Cambridge Climate Justice spokesperson and Environmental Policy student Slaveya Zaharieva argued that this may be because “fossil fuel funding has been shown to distort climate research outcomes in favour of the fossil fuel industry.” Zaharieva added that this academic conflict of interest “threatens Cambridge’s reputation as a leading research institution” and that “impartial and objective research is essential in ensuring academic integrity and freedom.”

However, Cambridge University has received nearly £15 million from oil companies since 2017, but Zaharieva claims that students and academics will continue to place pressure on the university to end it. Zaharieva concluded by promising that “this is an issue that won’t go away until the job is done.”

Image credits: Marine Mercier for Cambridge Climate Justice

The rally held a five minute silence to pay their respects to those who have lost their lives or been affected by the situation in Israel-Palestine. Protestors lay their signs on the ground to show their commitment to intersectionality and global justice.

The rally ended with a speech from the prominent climate activist, PhD student and founder of Climate in Colour Joycelyn Longdon who finished by concluding that by accepting fossil fuel funding, Cambridge University is “complicit [in]… a system that prioritises profit over people.”

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment

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Featured image credits: Marine Mercier for Cambridge Climate Justice