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To: The University of Cambridge
Cambridge University, cut your ties with fossil fuel money and commit to divestment now.
As The Guardian has revealed, the decision of Cambridge University to reject divestment from fossil fuels was a complete stitch-up. Following the democratic decision of staff to divest, a Divestment Working Group was created by the University to produce a report investigating whether to do so. The University decided against divestment last year, following the advice of the report. However, these recent revelations have exposed the working group as being riven with conflicted interests, shamefully corrupted by two multi-million pound donations on the table from fossil fuel companies.
We now call upon the University to revoke the Divestment Working Group report and begin an immediate, transparent and democratic process to investigate how the University can fully divest from fossil fuels.
Why is this important?
The Guardian investigation revealed that a member of the working group was simultaneously the lead contact for a combined donation of £22 million from BHP Billiton and BP. The Vice-Chair of the working group was aware of these donations, yet they were not disclosed to the group or declared as a conflict of interest.
It has also been discovered that the Chair of the Working Group held investments in Shell, Total and BP. Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope was not only aware of these donations and the compromised interests of working group members, but met with BP representatives for the donation just weeks after rejecting divestment.
This information is a source of total outrage, particularly for the majority of students and staff at the university who have repeatedly spoken out in favour of divestment and immediate action to tackle climate change. The legitimacy of that decision against divestment has been completely undermined, as it is now clear that it was ultimately informed by the report of a working group with vested interests .
These revelations serve to emphasise the dangerous extent to which Cambridge is wedded to companies which are fuelling climate breakdown.
It is time for the University to demonstrate a serious commitment to transparent investment and climate justice. Cambridge is lagging behind pathetically on the issue of divestment, despite its supposed status as a world-leading institution. 50 UK universities have committed to full divestment and Ireland became the first country to divest last year. New York City has recently declared that it will be divesting $5 billion from fossil fuels, as well as suing the world’s most powerful fossil fuel companies. The University of Cambridge needs to follow suit before it is too late: it must act now to delegitimise these companies by casting off their grip on the university and its internal structures.
It is imperative that the report of the Divestment Working Group is revoked and that a new consultation process on how the University should divest is initiated.