Zero Carbon's banner drop on 4th NovemberSimon Lock

CUSU Council voted on Monday to back the campaign led by the Cambridge Zero Carbon society, in a motion which was eventually split into four separate votes.

The motion, put forward by Zero Carbon Campaigns Officer Angus Satow, saw CUSU voting to support the campaign’s aim of encouraging the university to divest from fossil fuel companies.

It also included resolutions to provide funding for Zero Carbon to hire a coach to attend the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice on 29th November.

Following some debate, the Council also voted to “publicise and support” a fundraiser to cover the costs if Satow is fined by his college, Magdalene, for his role in the banner drop from Clare bridge on 4th November.

After questions were raised about the cohesiveness of the resolutions, with the Vice-President of the Union of Clare Students, Yannis Hemrich, describing them as “quite unrelated”. The initial motion was split into four separate votes, all of which passed.

The first two resolutions – to support the divestment campaign, and to “uphold the principles of divestment” at university committees and meetings both passed with 33 votes for, one against and three in abstention.

The vote to provide funding for coaches passed with 33 votes for, and four in abstention.

There was more division over the final motion, to support covering the potential costs of Satow’s fine, which saw 19 votes for, six against, and 12 in abstention, the latter including the CUSU Women’s Officer and both Disabled Students’ Officers.

Reacting to CUSU Council’s decision to support the divestment campaign, Tim Lornie from Zero Carbon told Varsity: “This is fantastic news, a ringing endorsement from the elected representatives of Cambridge students for immediate action on climate change. The university needs to put its money where its mouth is, and join the dots between its climate research and investment practices.”

Trinity College Students’ Union President Cornelius Roemer, who opposed the first and fourth sections of the motion, called into question the “extra hassle” for the university that a project of divestment would entail.

Speaking to Varsity, he said: “Trinity students very much support the idea that we need to something about climate change.”

“My criticism of the motion stemmed from the fact that it did not sufficiently acknowledge the reasons for divestment. It is widely acknowledged that divestment has no direct financial impact on the profitability of targeted companies – any such effects are arbitraged away by non-divesting funds. The impact of divestment is largely through stigmatisation and public consensus-building.”

A petition created by Zero Carbon has received 1,742 signatures, calling on the university to withdraw from its fossil fuel stocks, bonds and investments as a “moral imperative”.

The petition is supported by both Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner and his predecessor Julian Huppert.

A spokesperson for Zero Carbon said: “we are seeing the whole university on this issue, with support from all directions, whether it’s the student Labour Club, the Dean of Emmanuel College, or now CUSU. Cambridge is speaking with one voice, calling for investment in a sustainable future.”

The Council also voted to support the ‘Keep The Streetlights On: Cambridge’ campaign, which seeks to unite “concerned individuals” who oppose the County Council’s decision to turn off the lights on certain Cambridge roads, including Trinity Lane, from April next year.

The motion stipulated that a CUSU Council grant of £600 be used to “kick-start the campaign”. The motion passed with 32 for, none against and five in abstention.