The 24 'non-divested colleges' were threatened with direct action

Extinction Rebellion Cambridge (XRC) and Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge (XRYC) have issued a list of demands to the University and its constituent colleges as a part of their continued attempts to encourage institutions to divest from the fossil fuel industry.

In a list of demands issued today, the two climate activist groups sought to commit the University and its colleges to divest from all fossil fuel industries as well as the arms trade, intensive animal farming, and other “ecocidal companies.”

XRC and XRYC said that they are beginning their campaign “by personally delivering their demands to the University and the non-divested colleges.” If divestment is not announced by the end of July, they say they will “begin an escalating campaign of non-violent direct action until it is.”

This Saturday, XRC and XRYC will lead a socially distanced march, over the course of which they will deliver their demands to non-divested colleges and the University. XRC had already engaged in socially distanced activism during the lockdown, with a tag at a Cambridge research institute financed by BP.

XRC and XRYC also released a video featuring the faces and short biographies of their members, an unusual occurrence for a movement which has previously sought to protect the anonymity of its activists. The video featured Cambridge students, fellows and alumnus, the UCU Green officer, as well as Cambridge residents. It also featured global environmental activists, including Bill McKibben.

Currently only two colleges — Clare Hall and Queens’— are entirely divested, while a further five are partly divested — Selwyn, Downing, Emmanuel, Peterhouse and Jesus. This leaves 24 ‘non-divested’ colleges which, alongside the University, are the targets of the new campaign.

A spokesperson for the University said: “The University of Cambridge has already cut all direct investments in fossil fuels and recruited a Sustainable Investment Officer. In December, Cambridge extended its leadership in seeking solutions for decarbonising the global economy by co-founding the Responsible Investment Network - Universities (RINU).”

Nonetheless, XRC and XRCY draw attention to the fact that while the University produces “reams of research showing us that the crises are worse than we thought”, little action has so far been taken despite divestment proving “to be highly effective in removing the social legitimacy of unethical industries and facilitating shifts in government policy.”


Mountain View

XR Youth target institute on University’s West Cambridge Site

The campaign alleges that the University is “in thrall to the very industry that is destroying our planet” pointing both to the Schlumberger’s research laboratory on the West Cambridge site and the request of BP’s CEO for the University not to divest in 2018.

The July deadline has been issued as a result of the delays the divestment campaign has already faced. A report, announced in April 2019, has still not been published while successful divestment motions at Regent House have been blocked, XRC claims.

In that time Oxford University, who have a similar size endowment to Cambridge, announced that they would divest from the fossil fuel industry and invest in companies respecting the Oxford Martin sustainability criteria, thereby joining over half of the UK’s universities who have already divested.

Today’s announcement comes following months of increased activity by local Extinction Rebellion branches. In January, the groups shut down a local petrol station, and last month activists spray-painted Gonville and Caius with the message ’Fisher must fall’ in reference to a College alumni found to have favoured eugenics.