Zero Carbon society has protested donations to the University from oil drilling companiesLEFTERIS PAPAROUNAS

The University Council and the University’s chief financial officer have responded to the controversy surrounding its offshore investments revealed in The Guardian’s Paradise Papers published last November.

Following consultations with the chief financial officer, the Council has chosen to maintain its endorsement of a report published in 2016 about the level of the University’s holdings in fossil fuel industries, new reports have revealed.

The 2016 report included comments that the University has “negligible exposure to other fossil fuel industries”. Additionally, it states: “In relation to investments managed externally, there are no holdings in tar sands companies and only negligible holdings in thermal coal companies and any future holdings in such companies are expected to be negligible.”

The Council stated that following the Paradise Papers’ initial publication, they “shared many of the concerns raised by the speakers” at the discussion. Following this, they consulted with the University’s chief financial officer, who confirmed that the initial 2016 report remained correct.

The director of finance and chief financial officer denied, furthermore, what they took to be the Paradise Papers’ implications that the University’s indirect investments through overseas funds were used to make significant investment in fossil fuels. They added that the point of the pooled offshore funds was to “minimise costs and enable a single level of taxation in one jurisdiction.”

The Council’s response was largely centred on comments made by Reverend Jeremy Caddick of Emmanuel College, who questioned the University about the claims detailed above. He asked, furthermore, the Council to consider issuing an apology, and what steps it would take to improve transparency.

Responding to questions about how the University will work towards greater transparency in its investments, the Council noted that, following a meeting on the 15th November, the Investment Board was asked to consider how it might report more transparently about its investment management to the Council in future.


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This decision follows a lack of transparency between administrative blocks of the University itself. Council member Professor R. J. Anderson stated in December’s discussion that she was “as surprised as anyone by the Paradise Papers”.

Cambridge Zero Carbon, a society which campaigns regularly for the University to divest, has been consistently outspoken about the University’s ties to the fossil fuel industries.

A spokesperson for Cambridge Zero Carbon told Varsity: “Instead of apologising for its immoral investments practices as exposed by the Paradise Papers, University management are doubling down.

“They have issued no apology, and outrageously it is implied that the University is still investing in offshore funds, which may well include deep-sea oil. Council defends the 2016 Working Group report, but in truth that report isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

“Quite simply, University Council are living on another planet, apparently one in which climate change isn’t much of a problem... Cambridge Zero Carbon have no faith in their ability to adequately address the membership’s concerns around University investments.”

Yesterday’s comments have been sent to the University’s Divestment Working Group, which has been working on a report on the pros and cons of divestment since it was set up in 2017, in order to inform its further deliberations.