An estimated two hundred students and staff marched through the streets of Cambridge calling for the University to divest from fossil fuelsMathias Gjesdal Hammer

359 students and staff marched through the streets of Cambridge this afternoon in one of the Cambridge Zero Carbon Society’s largest ever actions, to protest the University’s latest refusal to fully divest from fossil fuels.

The march forms part of Zero Carbon’s escalating protest, after a leaked draft of the Divestment Working Group report prompted student representative Alice Guillaume to resign two weeks ago. The group staged a demonstration outside the University’s BP institute last week, including a fake oil spill, and are also involved in the ongoing occupation of Old Schools in solidarity with the UCU strikes.

Protesters held banners and placards calling for immediate divestment, as well as contingents marching with banners from Cambridge Defend Education and the Cambridge Universities Labour Club. The crowd chanted and banged pots, pans, and drums, urged by Zero Carbon members with loudhailers. Several orange smoke grenades were also used.

Protestors marched down the streets chanting and holding large banners Mathias Gjesdal Hammer

After a gathering outside Senate House immediately following the strike rally, the march travelled along King’s Parade, around the Downing Site, past the Guildhall and down Petty Cury, circling back to Market Square and forming another rally outside Senate House. Protesters spoke out against “Corporation Cambridge”, with speakers – including Anne Alexander, a prominent member of Cambridge UCU’s industrial action committee – drawing links between divestment and broader issues such as decolonisation and the University’s democratic accountability.

Speaking about the disproportionate impact of climate change on those in the global south and “our exploitative relationship with the planet”, former CUSU women’s officer Waithera Sebatindira said: “climate justice is racial justice”, and urged marchers to “offer our solidarity to other activists like us… who risk their lives” to “protect the planet”. Mia Watanabe, a member of Zero Carbon, asked how University members could continue to trust the “unaccountable, unelected leaders of Corporation Cambridge” when they “constantly prioritise profit over people”, asserting that with the breakdown of divestment campaigners’ relationship with the Working Group “there’s nowhere left for you to hide”.

Alice Guillaume spoke about her experiences with the Working Group, before asking protesters to submit questions to ask vice-chancellor Stephen Toope at the open meeting at 2pm tomorrow, which was announced today following demands from the occupiers of Old Schools. The action finished with a march around Old Schools, where several marchers accepted the occupiers’ invitation to join them through an open window in King’s.

Speaking to Varsity, a spokesperson for the Cambridge Zero Carbon Society said that the large protest “proves that we are united in support for divestment”.

“Time and time again,” they added, “University management has shown it does not care about what the members of their institution want. If they think we will stop fighting, they are sorely mistaken.


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“The University is running out of time to be on the right side of history.”

They were also “delighted” to have been joined by some of the students occupying Old Schools, saying: “We are united in demanding a University that not only stands for climate justice but is democratic, accountable, and listens to its students and staff.”

The campaign for Cambridge University to divest from its investments in the oil industry has increased in intensity in recent months, following the revelation that the University has invested £377,431,354 in fossil fuels, equivalent to 6.4% of its total endowment fund. 

A member of Cambridge Zero Carbon addresses the crowdMathias Gjesdal Hammer

Within the last academic year, at least six student bodies representing undergraduates and graduates from eight colleges have passed motions expressing support for the removal of investments in fossil fuels at both University and college levels. According to the Zero Carbon society, these motions have been “inspired” by its efforts. In some cases, the motions have been put forward by members of Zero Carbon; others have been proposed by college Environmental Officers and individuals aligned with the movement.

In a statement, CUSU president Daisy Eyre said: “This particular march has been brought about by the failure of the university to adequately address calls for divestment.

“The university has the opportunity to be a global leader in the fight for climate justice, but the only action taken has been to commission a report into divestment. When student Alice Guillaume resigned from the working group tasked with writing this report, she made it clear that the report does not go far enough. According to Guillaume, the University continues to treat climate change as a ‘future issue’, but by marching today, we as Cambridge students are showing that we believe the climate change must be tackled NOW.

“Climate justice is about race, gender, class and so much more, and certainly represents one of the most severe problems facing this world today. We call on the University to divest from fossil fuels, and to take action.”

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