This is not the first demonstration calling for the University to cut its ties to the fossil fuel industryHannah Mawardi with permission for Varsity

A group of student climate activists rallied outside the University this weekend, urging Cambridge to sever its ties to the fossil fuel industry.

Cambridge Climate Justice (CCJ) held a demonstration on King’s Parade on Friday (27/10), which attracted more than 50 Cambridge students, university staff and community members.

The group urged the University to end “months of delay” in the process of cutting its ties with the fossil fuel industry, which persist through research funding and partnerships.

The University has yet to act on the recommendations of the Topping Report, commissioned in December 2022, which recommended that the University stop accepting funding from the fossil industry.

The report, authored by Nigel Topping, former UN climate champion for COP26, said that companies like BP and Shell are not aligned with the University’s decarbonisation ambitions “on any level,” and that accepting funding poses “high reputational risk”.

A Guardian investigation from last month (4/10) found that UK universities have taken £40 million from the industry since 2022. Whilst an OpenDeomcracy investigation from 2021 found that Cambridge itself has taken £15 million from major oil companies since 2017.

Dr Emily Sandford, a research fellow at Gonville and Caius, said at the rally that the push for fossil free research is “less David vs Goliath [...] the ideal situation is Goliath vs a lot of Davids standing together”. She added that this is the “only answer” to finding “community and power” in a movement.

Slaveya Zaharieva, a CCJ spokesperson and Environmental Policy student, said: “Fossil fuel funding has been shown to distort climate research outcomes in favour of the fossil fuel industry.”

“This conflict of interest threatens Cambridge’s reputation as a leading research institution. Impartial and objective research is essential in ensuring academic integrity and freedom,” she added.

Another CCJ member said that the University is giving a “social licence” to fossil fuel companies by accepting their money, thereby “actively destroying our environment”.

A CCJ member told Varsity that “compromise” on Topping’s recommendations was not an option.

This would “compromise the quality of life for people who are less fortunate than us,” they added.


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The Council has established an informal working group to consider the report, tasked with examining the recommendations and undergoing further consultation across the University.

The Council aims to reach a conclusion by the end of December 2023.

The rally included a five-minute silence in mourning for lives lost during the conflict in Israel and Gaza. Protesters put down their placards in solidarity with those affected.

The rally comes after the University Council proposed a sixth Pro-Vice-Chancellor role last week, whose focus would be on sustainability.

The University of Cambridge has been approached for comment.