The Extinction Rebellion groups handed their divestment demands to the University and it’s colleges in early July Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge

Extinction Rebellion Cambridge (XRC) and Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge (XRYC) have promised a “fresh wave of action” against the University and it’s non-divested colleges in a press release on Sunday (02/08), after the climate activist groups’ deadline for full divestment by the end of July was missed.

The groups issued their demands at the beginning of July in a series of letters which were personally addressed to the Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope and non-divested colleges’ bursars. The list of demands sought to commit the University and its constituent colleges to full divestment from fossil fuel companies, the arms trade and other “ecocidal companies.”

Currently only two colleges - Clare Hall and Queen’s - are entirely divested, while a further five - Selwyn, Emmanuel, Downing, Peterhouse and Jesus - are partially divested.

In the press release announcing the groups' direct action, XRC and XRYC claim Darwin is in the process of beginning divestment but at the time of publication Varsity has been unable to verify this claim. 

This leaves 23 colleges who have not yet divested according to XR. Yet, XR detail that two of these colleges have “engaged in dialogue” and as such, they will not be the subject of the groups' direct action.

XR allege there has only "been silence" from the remaining 21 colleges in response to their demands for divestment. Consequently, these colleges, alongside the University, will be the target of the climate activist groups’ promised campaign.

However, a spokesperson for the University affirmed that “Cambridge has already cut all direct investments in fossil fuels” and noted its co-founding and membership of the Responsible Investment Network - Universities.

 While recognising that it is true that the University has divested their direct investments, XRYC told Varsity that this "is missing the point." XYRC emphasise that they are calling for "full divestment", stressing that the University still holds a "huge amount in indirect investments in fossil fuels." 

XYRC commented to Varsity that the University seems to need reminding that "indirect investments are still investments." 

XRC and XYRC contend that the University is “in thrall to the very industry that is destroying our planet” directing attention to both the Schlumberger’s research laboratory on the University’s West Cambridge Site and the request of BP’s CEO for the University not to divest in 2018.

Jane Goodard, a member of XRC and a Corpus Christi Master’s student, highlighted the groups frustration with the University: “The University and colleges may feel that the timeframe we gave them is unfairly short, but their scientists have known about the climate and ecological crisis for decades.”


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Extinction Rebellion threaten campaign of direct action against ‘non-divested colleges’

She continued: “Divestment was first asked for at the University over five years ago by groups including Zero carbon - we won’t take any more excuses.”

Another XRC member and By-Fellow at Fitzwilliam, Kim Ashton, added that when “influential institutions” like Cambridge and its colleges “fail to use their social capital for good” and do not divest, this “legitimizes the actions” of “ecocidal companies” and “enables their evasion of justice.”

The groups’ announcement of promised direct action follows months of increased activity by XRC and XRYC including a week-long roadblock on Trumpington Street in February and action in June, when XRYC activists painted ‘Fisher must fall’ on Caius Gate of Honour in protest of a college hall window commemorating the eugenicist.

The University and Darwin have been contacted for further comment.

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