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120 Trinity alumni urge Cambridge college to divest

Trinity College has been sent a letter from 120 alumni calling for it to divest fully from fossil fuels.

The front of Trinity College. Picture: Keith Heppell
The front of Trinity College. Picture: Keith Heppell

It has £9.1million directly invested in companies involved in oil and gas production, extraction and exploration – the most of any University of Cambridge college.

The letter was delivered to Trinity on Monday (January 11) and reads, in part: “The fossil fuel industry’s business models threaten our future and the habitability of our planet... It is past time for Trinity to take the well-worn path of divestment.

“By divesting from fossil fuels, the College can adopt the best investment practice both ethically and financially, act for the future of its students and alumni, and add its weight to the political momentum that is already undermining the fossil fuel industry.”

The signatories span several generations of Trinity alumni, from those who began their studies at Trinity in 1959, right through to 2020 graduates.

Signatory Polly Courtney, 1998, author and screenwriter, said: “It is devastating to think that Trinity is funding the destruction of our planet. The science that I worked so hard to study under the brilliant teaching at Trinity is unequivocal: we need to end all investment in fossil fuels, now.”

A group of alumni started the letter after researching where Trinity stood on the fossil fuel issue. Signatures were gathered initially by word of mouth, and later via social media.

Signatory Roland Clift CBE, 1960, said: “I have grandchildren and I care for their futures. Only a fraction of known fossil fuel reserves can be used without making the planet a desert, so the reserves are heavily overvalued – even financial self-interest says Trinity should get out before the crash.”

Climate change protesters outside Trinity College in August, 2020. Picture: Mike Scialom
Climate change protesters outside Trinity College in August, 2020. Picture: Mike Scialom

Clift is an Emeritus Professor of Environmental Technology at the University of Surrey and ex-review editor for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Signatories were asked if they would be more likely to donate more to Trinity in the future if the college divests: 41 per cent said yes, they would give more, while 40 per cent said they would probably give more, and 19 per cent were neutral. None would donate less.

Signatory Anne Rooney, 1978, science writer, said: “Trinity College exists to prepare young people for the future, so let’s make sure they have a future. If the college genuinely desires to attract a more diverse cohort of students, it needs to take action in line with their values.”

Signatory Ruth Lawlor, a historian, said: “Trinity hoards wealth in ways that entrench inequality in Cambridge and beyond; the idea that the privileges of Trinity members should come at the cost of the natural environment and all those people who are and will become victims of climate catastrophe is unconscionable. A powerful institution with a global role should lead by example and not have to be continually pressed by its staff, students, and alumni to do the right thing.”

The university announced in October that it would divest from all direct and indirect investments in fossil fuels by 2030. Several Cambridge colleges have since announced either partial or full divestment, including Christ’s, Lucy Cavendish, and Trinity Hall.

With global warming continuing at an unprecedented rate in 2020, the Artic could be free of sea ice by 2035 and large parts of Cambridgeshire will be under water by 2050.

Trinity alumni can still sign the letter.

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