Although recent actions by the College has been welcomed, there is still a lot more to be done.Wikimedia Commons

The climate crisis is among the most pressing issues of our time. The past year has seen people and animals burned alive in wildfires; homes, livelihoods, and loved ones washed away in flash floods; millions displaced due to permanent droughts; people killing each other over access to water supplies; and a global pandemic that is undoubtedly linked to environmental destruction. And frighteningly, we are on course for things to get even worse. Time is running out. And yet, governments and institutions across the world fail to act. 

Jesus College is one of the richest colleges in Cambridge with assets well in excess of £300 million . Last year’s partial divestment from directly held investments in fossil fuel companies was a welcome first step. But this decision only related to a tiny fraction of Jesus’s overall investments, most of which are managed indirectly. Just under half of Jesus’ investments are with the central Cambridge University Endowment Fund, and £46 million is managed by Cazenove Capital, a private investment management firm. Currently, this money is not subject to ethical or sustainability criteria. As a globally respected institution, and one that claims to be “working on the best ways to respond to the urgent challenge of climate change”, Jesus College has a profound responsibility to publicly disavow those ecocidal industries which are fuelling climate breakdown. 

It is clear that we need to act, and we need to act now. For years, Jesus students and fellows have made their support for divestment very clear. Several motions have been passed unanimously at OGMs in favour of declaring a climate emergency and fully divesting. Our JCR officers  have worked tirelessly within the official channels of dialogue, without much progress. However, the urgency of the climate crisis combined with the lack of robust institutional response has sadly forced us to take more direct, public action. We love Jesus College, and are so grateful to study and live here. But on this issue, Jesus, like institutions across the world, must act much more boldly still.  

On the 12th October 2020 over 30 members of the college community, including fellows, participated in a peaceful and COVID secure demonstration on First Court. Our message was very clear. We urged Jesus College Council to commit to:

·      Fully divesting from all indirect investments held in the fossil fuel industry by the end of 2021

·    Fully divesting from all investments in companies involved in biodiversity destruction, intensive animal farming and other ecocidal industries, also by the end of 2021

·     Achieving net zero emissions by 2030 at the latest.

Since our demonstration, over 330 members of the college community (including undergraduate and postgraduate students, members of the JCSU and MCR, as well as nearly 40 fellows) have signed a petition with the same demands. This unprecedented level of support clearly demonstrates the wishes of the community, and we urge Jesus College to take action.  

These aims are far from unachievable. Both Clare Hall and Queen’s College have fully divested, and Christ’s College have recently committed to full divestment by 2030 - although this 10 year timescale is not consistent with the relatively simple administrative process involved with divesting. Jesus should be much bolder, and divest by the end of 2021. The climate crisis is devastating communities right now, and we should not wait a second longer than is necessary to take action. 

Jesus is also over twenty times wealthier than Hughes Hall. Yet whilst they have committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2030, we have not. No reason as to why divestment cannot be achieved along the time-frame we have outlined has been offered by College management. We can and should withdraw our investments in ecocidal industries immediately and commit to rapid decarbonisation by 2030, at the latest. If an extraordinarily wealthy Cambridge college with access to high-quality sustainability research cannot achieve these goals, who can? We must put our money where our mouth is on this issue. 

We love Jesus College, and appreciate all it has done so far in terms of climate action. We also appreciate that the College is currently facing the unprecedented challenges presented by the pandemic, and has done so without hiking student rents or laying off staff. Our campaign is simply calling for an equally powerful response to the climate crisis. This has been our first protest, but unless Jesus acts decisively, it will not be our last. We know that our College can help lead the way in modelling an appropriately bold response to climate breakdown, and urge College leadership to commit to doing so. The science is clear. Our moral imperative is clear. There is a clear consensus that divestment does have an effect, whilst shareholder engagement does not. Now is the time to listen to the will of College members, and act decisively. 


Mountain View

Cambridge aims to divest from fossil fuels by 2030