In a move praised by many commentators, Cambridge University has announced it is exploring options for divesting its multi-billion pound endowments from fossil-fuel corporations.
The university’s management is said to be weighing up the pros and cons of divestment from coal, oil, and gas companies.
In a move welcomed by the archbishop of Canterbury, 324 of the university’s academics signed the motion, known as a ‘grace’, on the subject of divestment from fossil fuel industries. Some of the university’s individual colleges had previously announced their intention to divest funds from fossil fuels. Clare College even threatened to withdraw money it had invested in the university’s central fund if it did not commit to divestment from fossil fuel industries within the next five years.
Cambridge University has long been accused of being too closely entwined with the fossil fuels industry, having previously been offered two multi-million pound donations from the industry.
The move towards potential divestment from the fossil fuels industry has been widely praised, with many pointing out that it seems hypocritical for universities to teach students about the dangers of climate change, whilst benefiting financially from connections to coal, oil and gas companies.
In 2016, Newcastle University committed to achieving partial divestment in fossil fuels industries, after the student body requested that the university begin the process of severing its financial ties to the coal, oil and gas industries.
As of November 2018, the university claimed to be making progress with this goal, stating that its investment in the oil and gas sector had reduced from 8.8% in September 2017 to 4.4% in October 2018.
In April, after a meeting of Newcastle’s Environment and Sustainability Committee, the university also announced its intention to achieve net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2040. When announcing this new goal, Professor Julie Sanders (Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University) referenced the 2016 plan to divest the university from fossil fuels, stating that: ’We are increasing the proportion of funds we hold with managers who do not invest in fossil fuel companies and we have transferred investments to three ethically screened alternative asset funds which exclude fossil fuel companies’.