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Climate campaigners welcome ‘historic’ University of Cambridge divestment plan - but say it’s ‘nowhere near the end’

XR Cambridge makes a statement on Senate House. Picture: Kay Goodridge
XR Cambridge makes a statement on Senate House. Picture: Kay Goodridge

For Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, the announcement this week on divestment by the University of Cambridge by 2030 was seen as the fruition of a huge amount of hard work, particularly in August when the divestment campaign in the city was almost continuous and resulted in the arrest of 10 activists in Cambridge.

Paying tribute to the collective effort, an XR spokesperson said: “It’s not just our efforts but Cambridge Zero Carbon , among others, who have worked hard to encourage the university to fully divest as fast as possible.

“It was worth it, it’s probably the case that the university would not have done this without the actions and sacrifice involved - which of course is nothing compared to what happens in other parts of the world, where activists frequently lose their homes and families, and are persecuted: 200 environmental defenders are murdered every year.

“It’s a significant step forward but obviously we demanded divestment by end of 2020. It’s a positive step that energy-focused equity will be dissolved by 2020 but, by waiting until 2030, they seem to be saying it’s OK if it gets worse in terms of what is going to happen between now and 2030.

“It’s the best university in the world - if they can’t divest in a few a months then there must be questions about their managerial competence: 2030 is a long way off.”

Extinction Rebellion Cambridge on the streets of the city. Picture: Kay Goodridge
Extinction Rebellion Cambridge on the streets of the city. Picture: Kay Goodridge

Cambridge Zero Carbon, the student-led campaign which has led the five-year campaign for divestment at the University, said of the landmark decision : “This is a historic victory for the divestment movement. After decades of close collaboration with the fossil fuel industry, Cambridge University has been forced to concede to divestment demands put forward by student and staff campaigners.”

The organisation added that “this sends a resounding signal to BP, Shell , and ExxonMobil: no more will Cambridge University profit from the companies who have decimated frontline communities, bankrolled misleading climate science, lobbied against environmental regulations, while continuing to explore for oil even as the planet burns”.

For Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, the struggle has to continue.

“We’ve now got 15 colleges who have still not started divestment,” said XR Cambridge’s spokesperson. “Almost all haven’t fully divested, and this announcement only includes fossil fuels, not intensive animal farming, deforestation and biodiversity destruction, or arms - plus the university’s announcement doesn’t seem to include the BP Institute , Schulmberger , or Shell’s studentship or professorship activities, or whether their presence on the campus will be curtailed by 2030.

“Today’s news is a significant step on the road, but nowhere near the end.”

The divestment announcement was billed as “very important” by vice-chancellor Prof Stephen Toope in a ‘Dear World, Yours Cambridge’ event on September 26.

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University of Cambridge to divest from fossil fuels in drive for zero carbon

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