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Pembroke College to divest fully from fossil fuel investments by 2023



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The announcement that Pembroke College intends to fully divest from all fossil fuel investments by 2023 sets a new bar for full divestment – of the other two University of Cambridge colleges (out of 31) who have committed to full divestment, Clare Hall has set a target of 2024, and Christ’s College has a target of 2030.

Pembroke College (44505380)
Pembroke College (44505380)

Pembroke College has a portfolio valued at January 31 2021 of £104m (unaudited). The University of Cambridge college has zero direct investments in fossil fuel companies but a letter called on the college to divest fully. The letter was sent on January 22 and signed by three organisations – Pembroke Climate Justice Campaign, Pembroke Orchard Green Society and Pembroke College Junior Parlour Committee – alongside 46 alumnae (including Evie Aspinall, Cambridge University Student Union President 2018-19) and 215 current students.

“The climate emergency is the single most important issue of our times,” the letter stated. “An overwhelming and ever-growing body of research warns that unless global carbon emissions start rapidly decreasing, the impacts of climate change will be devastating, irreversible, and will disproportionately affect frontline communities in the Global South.

“The destructive practices of the fossil fuel industry are fundamentally incompatible with climate justice. For decades, the fossil fuel industry has knowingly continued to fuel climate breakdown, lobbying against environmental regulations, bankrolling misleading climate science, and continuing to look for new sources of oil and gas.

“Divestment is an effective, tangible way to effect change. In October 2020, the University of Cambridge committed to full divestment by 2030, and at least 14 Cambridge colleges have announced a commitment to at least partial divestment. It is past time for Pembroke to do the same.

“As students, staff and alum, we are all incredibly proud to be members of Pembroke College. We firmly believe it is not too late for Pembroke to demonstrate its commitment to tackling the climate crisis.”

Climate change is resulting in the Earth warming at an alarming rate
Climate change is resulting in the Earth warming at an alarming rate

The result of the renewed pressure caused Pembroke to respond on February 17, saying: “As a College we regard these requests as broadly reasonable and achievable, and can commit to make all reasonable efforts to deliver them. There may be a few technical challenges which will only affect small sums (eg liquidating hedge fund holdings) which we can discuss with you as we come across them. We can however underline our commitment to full divestment. We note though that our fossil fuel investments have never been large and this divestment is not materially significant.” It is thought the college has around £20m of indirect investments.

The letter is similar to the one written to Trinity in January, spanning several generations of Trinity alumni. While a response from Trinity is pending, Pembroke has acted, with the demands the college will make “all reasonable efforts to deliver” including:

- Removing all direct investments from the 200 largest fossil fuel producers in terms of emissions (as defined by the Carbon Underground 200) by the end of 2021 and

- Removing all indirect investments in the Carbon Underground 200 list of companies by switching away from all relevant investment funds by the end of 2023 (excluding CUEF, which will be fully divested by 2030).

Pembroke Climate Justice Campaign said in a statement: “As a direct result of our open letter, Pembroke has committed to full divestment from fossil fuels by the end of 2023.

Youth climate change activism has proved a powerful voice in Cambridge. Picture: Richard Marsham
Youth climate change activism has proved a powerful voice in Cambridge. Picture: Richard Marsham

“This is a huge victory for our campaign and an incredible demonstration of the power of student campaigning. To everyone who signed the open letter - you are part of this victory!

“This divestment announcement sends a clear message to the fossil fuel industry that their destructive, exploitative practices have no place in our College, our University, or our society.

“Divestment is not simply about safeguarding our own futures. Divestment is an act of meaningful solidarity with frontline communities in the Global South, who are already being disproportionately affected by the impacts of the climate crisis.

This is just the beginning though - we will continue working with the College to develop an updated investment policy that reflects Pembroke’s commitment to full divestment, and campaigning for the College to dramatically reduce its carbon emissions and cut all ties with ecocidal industries.”

Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge was delighted:

XR Cambridge also took to social media:

https://www.facebook.com/xrcambridge/posts/845971182967394

The divestment announcement follows the College’s decision to sell their direct investments in Shell and BP in 2019.

The University of Cambridge plans to fully divest from all fossil fuel investments by 2030. A further 12 University of Cambridge colleges have signed up to partial divestment – Newnham, Robinson, St John’s, Fitzwilliam, Selwyn, Emmanuel, Downing, Peterhouse, Queen’s, Darwin, Lucy Cavendish and Jesus.



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