The Vice-Chancellor announced the divestment plans in speech made this morning, which would normally be delivered from Senate HouseLouis Ashworth

The University has today (01/10) announced that the £3.5 billion Cambridge University Endowment Fund (CUEF) will be divested from fossil fuels and refocused towards investments in renewable energy.

Initially, by December 2020, the University will withdraw investments which have previously been held in conventional energy companies. The University also aims to build up significant investments in renewable energy by 2025 and divest ‘from all meaningful exposure in fossil fuels by 2030’.

By 2038, the University aims to ‘achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across its entire investment portfolio’.

Today’s announcement comes sixteen months after the University initially agreed to explore how it could divest its endowments from fossil fuel corporations.

In May 2019, the University Council committed to commission a report which would consider ‘the advantages and disadvantages of the policy of divestment’.

Under the plans announced today, there is also a commitment to scrutinise research funding and other donations to ensure that the donor ‘can demonstrate compatibility with the University’s objectives on cutting greenhouse gas emissions before any funding is accepted’.

The University’s Investment Office will work with Cambridge Zero and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership to offer external fund managers advice on sustainable finance.

Announcing the plans in his annual address to the University on Thursday morning, Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope said: “The University is responding comprehensively to a pressing environmental and moral need for action with an historic announcement that demonstrates our determination to seek solutions to the climate crisis.”

In this morning’s address, which was live-streamed rather than delivered in its usual location at Senate House, Toope stated that the University “will approach with renewed confidence our collaborations with government, industry and research partners around the world as together we work for a zero carbon future”.

Sir David Attenborough has described the University’s new targets as “hugely encouraging.”

Attenborough, who studied at Clare College and now serves as the honorary patron of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative, added that the plans are an “important contribution towards the restoration of the health of the natural world”.

The University’s Chief Investment Officer, Tilly Franklin, said: “climate change, ecological destruction, and biodiversity loss present an urgent existential threat… the Investment Office has responded to those threats by pursuing a strategy that aims to support and encourage the global transition to a carbon neutral economy”.

However, the divestment plans only apply to the central University as Cambridge’s colleges are separate legal and financial entities so are not necessarily invested in the CUEF. Currently, only two colleges – Clare Hall and Queens’ – are entirely divested while a further nine colleges - Newnham, Robinson, St John’s, Fitzwilliam, Selwyn, Emmanuel, Downing, Peterhouse and Jesus - are known to be partially divested.

Today’s announcement follows months of campaigning by Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists, after the University and its colleges failed to meet the group’s demand to commit to full divestment by the end of July. This follows ongoing calls by Cambridge Zero Carbon, a student climate activist group, for the University to divest.

The ‘fresh wave’ of direction by XR over the summer resulted in the arrest of some activists, including restraining orders on some members who are also University alumni.

Undergraduate President of Cambridge’s Students Union, Ben Margolis, described today’s announcement as “a landmark decision for which students, staff and the Students’ Union have been campaigning for years”.

The University, which insists that it is “at the head of the race to become the first university endowment of its kind where greenhouse gas emissions from the activities of all investments balance out at zero”, hopes that today’s announcement will “inspire other institutions” to establish similar targets.

In January, just over half of the UK’s universities signed up to either divest or pledged to divest from the fossil fuel industry.