Zero Carbon protest emphasises their 'red lines' on the climateCAMBRIDGE ZERO CARBON SOCIETY

The Cambridge Zero Carbon Society has criticised the university’s Working Group for investment for a “lack of focus on climate change and sustainability”.

The Advisory Committee on Benefactions and External and Legal Affairs (ACBELA) Working Group has a remit to evaluate “how the Investment Board integrates environmental, social, and governance considerations” into the university’s investment practice.

It is set to consider the university’s “mission and core values” in relation to its “potential investment approaches”, focusing in particular on its stated “concern for sustainability and its relationship with the environment”.

The Cambridge Zero Carbon Society have expressed doubt that the Working Group will wholly recommend divestment from fossil fuels, and may instead only “recommend greater incorporation of environmental and ethical factors into investment decisions.”

In a statement, Zero Carbon described its own aims to call on the university to “divest its multi-billion pound endowment from fossil fuels, as part of a global effort to stigmatise the fossil fuel industry and force governments to legislate for renewables, in order to comply with the 2°C global warming limit agreed upon by 193 countries at the Paris Climate Summit in December.”

The society has also collaborated with Positive Investment Cambridge (PIC) in a joint letter which criticises a “lack of transparency” of the Working Group’s report.

In the letter PIC state that “the lack of student involvement in this process has been unfair”. Zero Carbon revealed that they had submitted a 75-page report to the Working Group but had not been permitted to present it.

They were told that there was “[not] much to be gained” from it, despite it being “substantial, well-referenced and with contributions by professional economists, as well as being fundamentally related to the Working Group’s remit.”

The society also criticised the Working Group for not allowing the two student Socially Responsible Investment Officers appointed to the Working Group “to share its progress with fellow students”, and for holding the student consultation stage over the summer of 2015, a time they called “inconvenient and not well publicised”.

Zero Carbon have expressed concerns that the Working Group has been “prioritising money-making” over ethics, and reported that, in a meeting with the Chair of the Working Group in November, the Chair “cast doubt on the universally acknowledged imperative to keep global temperature rises below 2°C, and was from the outset intensely sceptical of divestment.”

The society also condemned the Group’s “fundamental failure to consult with the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU)”, which they say “should surely have been the first port of call”. In November, CUSU Council had voted 33-1 in support of divestment, and Zero Carbon’s petition on divestment has gained just under 2,200 signatures.

Zero Carbon also took issue with the lack of a formal method for making submissions or presenting their report to the Group, and stated that contact with members of the Working Group via email has been repeatedly ignored.

Zero Carbon have commented that “By all accounts this is not how a respectful, efficient, engaged university should be functioning.”

A spokesperson for Zero Carbon said that they would propose a motion in October to Regent House, a governing body of approximately 4,000 academics and administrators.

The society has stated: “We are confident we will win a vote among fellows at Regent House in October if it comes to it... there is no future in fossil fuels. Cambridge can either cut and run, or be a part of the crash.”

Angus Satow, Zero Carbon Campaigns Officer, called the procedure of the working group a “fundamental issue of fairness”. He said that the Working Group “has failed to engage” in both the university’s “moral duty to improve the world” and its duty to include students in decision making processes. Satow added: “we are sure that the academics of Cambridge will recognise the overwhelming case for fossil fuel divestment.”