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University and colleges divestment update - 15/08/2020

Friday, August 14, 2020

Since the NVDA phase of our divestment campaign started on 1st August, rebels from XR Cambridge have outdone themselves with action after amazing action! So far (in under two weeks), we’ve seen:

  • A divestment play written and performed outside of Darwin College
  • Reverse graffiti on Garret Hostel Bridge
  • An oil slick rebel march (this got over 25,000 impressions on Twitter!)
  • Croquet on Senate House lawn (we made page 3 of the Telegraph!)
  • A dinosaur die-in (and other dinosaur-related actions)
  • Divestment stencilling on several University buildings

And we have much more coming up, so stay tuned ;)

What progress have we seen?

Before we begin, here’s our definition of “partially divested from fossil fuels”: an institution that holds no direct investments in fossil fuels and has committed to never hold them again, but still holds indirect investments (i.e. investments through an intermediary investment fund) in them.

The first finding of the campaign was that Darwin College is in the process of divesting from fossil fuels! For some reason, however, it will only tell its alumni if they specifically ask - it won’t admit to it publicly…

Next up, we found out that Fitzwilliam College officially partially divested from fossil fuels in 2016 but has only in the last few days confirmed that this was from all fossil fuels rather than just “high-impact” fossil fuels. They are yet to update their website statement to reflect this.

Most excitingly, the following colleges have for the first time publicly announced that they are already partially divested! This is also the first time they have publicly committed to never invest directly in fossil fuels again:

Less impressively, the following colleges have for the first time publicly announced that they hold no direct investments in fossil fuels, but haven’t confirmed that they will never invest in them again. We cannot mark them as partially divested until they do this.:

Several other colleges are engaging with us to prove that they are divested to some extent - we’llupdate you when we know more.

The University itself? It’s completely silent on the matter.

What’s the pattern here?

Partial divestment from fossil fuels isn’t really much to celebrate - indirect investments in fossil fuels are still investments in fossil fuels. The real win achieved so far is that colleges are publicly disclosing information on their investment practices that they never have before. Their positions on fossil fuels and the climate crisis is more transparent to anybody who cares to look and some colleges, importantly, have committed not to invest directlyagain - they publicly acknowledge that fossil fuels are bad and they are clearly saying they won’t profit from them. These colleges have started to disavow the fossil fuel industry, removing its social legitimacy and making way for other colleges and the University to do the same and more. Non-divested colleges are becoming increasingly embarrassed as it becomes clear that divestment is totally possible and they are at risk of being the last college to behave ethically.