Churchill College is one of 24 Cambridge Colleges that is yet to divest from fossil fuel companies.
Extinction Rebellion activists have been engaging in direct action against colleges that have not divested. In February, they dug up the front lawn of Trinity College. University buildings have also been repeatedly targeted by spray painters and activists protested outside Churchill this summer.
Cambridge Zero Carbon, a student climate change campaign group, argues that investment in fossil fuel companies “legitimises the fossil fuel industry’s destructive practices, and funds the climate crisis and its devastating impacts.”
Climate change groups argue that divestment stigmatises the fossil fuel industry. If the fossil fuel industry becomes a ‘pariah industry’, they argue that policy makers will be less likely to support restrictive legislation.
University staff have argued that a focus on divestment detracts from the ways staff and students can reduce their carbon footprint, and the University’s positive work on improving sustainability.
In a 2019 article, Professor Dame Athene Donald, Master of Churchill, wrote, “A single focus on action targeting divestment loses sight of the bigger picture.”
She explained that divestment is not a simple solution to climate change. As shareholders, Colleges can put pressure on fossil fuel companies to research into more sustainable technologies.
It is unclear whether divestment protests will continue outside Churchill in the coming year.