The SU postgraduate president hid his past work for Bharat PetroleumFelix Armstrong

Vareesh Pratap, SU Postgraduate President, voted for a motion that said working with the fossil fuel industry runs contrary to the University’s mission despite being an ex-manager at an oil company.

Pratap was a manager at India’s second-largest oil and gas company but omitted the name of his former employer from his manifesto, Varsity can reveal. 

As Postgraduate President, Pratap supported a motion that claimed working with the fossil industry “runs contrary to the University’s mission statement”. 

Pratap worked for nearly five years at Bharat Petroleum, where he progressed to hold the position of manager, before becoming an SU sabbatical officer.

Last term, the SU voted to renew a motion to “Cut all ties between Cambridge University and the fossil fuel industry”. Pratap told Varsity he voted in favour of the motion. 

The motion claimed “climate breakdown is one of the biggest ethical issues of our generation” and accused fossil fuel companies of being “directly responsible”, noting that “just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global carbon emissions.”

The motion read: “Supporting, investing, or working with the fossil fuel industry in any way runs contrary to the University’s mission statement of ‘concern for sustainability and the relationship with the environment’.”

Cutting all ties with the fossil fuel industry is said to be a “moral imperative” and a “crucial step to taking tangible action to tackle climate breakdown”.

In his role as SU PG President, Pratap's responsibilities include representing students’ concerns on the Cambridge Zero management committee and organising a Green careers fair which fossil fuel companies are not allowed to attend. 

One former JCR President told Varsity: “Given the SU's goal of severing ties with the fossil fuel industry - goals they've reaffirmed even while this officer has been in post - it is hugely hypocritical that he spent several years working for a large oil firm.”

“How can students trust him to campaign to sever ties, especially in the Careers Service, with the same industry he chose to work in?” they continued. 

When campaigning to become SU President, Pratap disclosed in his manifesto that he worked as a “manager at a Fortune 500 company,” but he did not reveal the company’s full name. 

None of the priorities he listed in his manifesto mention the climate crisis. 

Pratap told Varsity: “The manifesto has a word limit, so one is inevitably compelled to omit some information. Details about my employment and volunteer work have been publicly available on my LinkedIn account.”


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“As severing all ties between Cambridge University and the fossil fuel industry was already a mandated policy by the Student Council of SU back then, the other issues adversely impacting student experiences at Cambridge were appropriately included in the manifesto," he continued. 

When asked about whether his employment history reduces his credibility to lobby the University to cut ties with the fossil fuel industry, Pratap said: “No one should harbour apprehensions regarding my previous employment with an energy company, situated in a developing country in the global south, which is, of course, at a distinct stage in terms of energy security compared to developed nations."

"My association with them, rescinded approximately 32 months ago and a substantial 16 months prior to my enrolment at this university, should not be misconstrued as contradictory to the mission of the university or any motions passed by the SU,” he continued.

The University Council will debate a grace this month proposing a moratorium on new funded collaborations with fossil fuel companies.