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Cambridge Turns Its Back On Coal & Tar Sands Investments

The University of Cambridge has blacklisted any and all investment in coal and tar sands companies following mounting pressure to divest from fossil fuels.

Announced this week in a report published by the Working Group established by the University of Cambridge in early 2015 to investigate what changes should be made to the University’s Statement of Investment Responsibility, the University currently has no coal or tar sands investments, and has “no expectation of having any such exposure” to coal and tar sands companies “in the future.”

University of Cambridge-1The University of Cambridge Working Group also noted that it “also has negligible exposure to other fossil fuel industries,” though it refused to completely divest from fossil fuel investments.

Following the publication of the report, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the University’s Vice Chancellor, and Nick Cavalla, its Chief Investment Officer, published a joint letter urging fund managers to look more closely at any carbon-intensive assets they might retain, “and to account carefully for carbon risk.” The urging seems a little hypocritical, considering the University has itself failed to completely divest from all fossil fuel investments, but as has been explored elsewhere, continued investment in fossil fuel companies can have a beneficial effect for the fossil fuel companies if investors are willing to voice concerns and vote for change. The University of Cambridge’s intention to hold onto some of its fossil fuel assets while urging fund managers to closely investigate carbon intensive assets may be an intentional step to work change from the inside. 

“Cambridge holds no investments in coal or tar sands either directly or indirectly, unlike other institutions such as Stanford that have only divested from assets they own directly,” said Farhan Samanani a member of the Working Group charged with writing the report. “Cambridge’s endowment is one of the best performing university endowments in the world. The fact that it has steered clear of coal and tar sands shows that these sectors are simply too damaging and too risky.”

Campaigners for complete divestment intend to continue their pressure on the University. Farhan Samanani, who is also a member of the Positive Investment Cambridge campaign, continued:

“This important step deserves to be celebrated, and has the potential to create meaningful change. But we also have our work cut out for us. The success of this report depends largely on how it is implemented. Ideally we will see Cambridge use its tremendous research expertise to improve investors’ understanding of how to contribute to decarbonising the economy — and then put this research into practice.”

Image Credit: University of Cambridge

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