Fossil fuel investments: The University of Cambridge and its colleges
As of 2019:
- The University of Cambridge and its colleges combined have the largest endowment fund of any university in Europe: £6.9 billion
- It is 197 times larger than the average (median) UK fund (only including universities with an endowment fund of £2.5m or more)
- This means that getting Cambridge to divest would have an effect much, much larger than getting the average UK university to divest.
- The University of Oxford and its colleges have the next largest endowment fund at £6.1 billion, but it has now committed to some form of divestment.
What do some relevant people think of divestment?
- BP does not like idea at all - their then-CEO, Bob Dudley, effectively threatened the university.
- There was a heated “Topic of Concern” debate at Senate House in February 2019 centering on divesting the University’s endowment fund. Many academics called for the University to divest, but senior management overruled them.
Fossil fuel divestment
Fossil fuel divestment is a worldwide campaign that has, as of April 2020, seen $14 trillion of investments removed by a total of 1,192 institutions and over 58,000 individuals.
Fossil fuel divestment has the following power:
- Primarily, it removes the social legitimacy of the fossil fuel industry through organisations publicly stating they will not invest in fossil fuels because of the harm they cause.
- Secondarily, when social legitimacy is lost, it gives social power to politicians to legislate against the industry.
- Its tertiary power is in the financial effects this has on the industry - nobody wants to invest and people want to actively remove any investments they already have, which sends share prices tumbling and hits profits
This is all backed up by research and previous success - divestment campaigns have been run very successfully against, for example, the tobacco industry and, separately, South Africa when it was running its apartheid system.
There are four main myths about divestment:
- “Divestment will impact the University research funding”
- “Divestment will not have an impact on the fossil fuel industry”
- “Shareholder investment is the way to influence Big Oil into taking action”
- “Fossil fuel companies are part of the solution”
These have all been disproven and summarised in a report by Cambridge Zero Carbon society.