We are alarmed to hear that the University of Cambridge has accepted a multi-million pound donation from Shell which will fund research into oil and gas extraction. Hundreds of staff and students have called on the University to divest from fossil fuel companies because they want us to take action in line with the overwhelming scientific evidence that fossil fuel emissions are the main driver of catastrophic climate change. It is totally contradictory to promote initiatives encouraging the reduction of our institutional carbon footprint if at the same time our research is enabling further fossil fuel extraction and emissions! We are in a state of climate emergency, and without immediate and radical action, the consequences will be disastrous both today and for future generations. The most severe impacts of climate change will be felt in the Global South, where rising sea levels, extreme weather and droughts are already damaging the lives of millions of people. It is particularly distressing to see the University continuing to accept funding from Shell, which has been criticised for many years over human rights abuses perpetrated against critics of its fossil fuel extraction activities.
Instead of inviting fossil fuel companies to discuss future research and investment strategy, the University must engage in meaningful, open and democratic discussion with its own staff and students, and with the wider public. Such a discussion must include representatives of the communities and generations most affected by climate change, and tackle how we can direct the knowledge and experience of our institution towards creating the conditions for a just transition to a zero carbon economy. Collaboration with fossil fuel companies which are driven by the short term aim of maximising shareholder profits rather than the health of our planet is fuelling the problem of climate change.
We call on the University to return this donation to Shell. Furthermore, it should declare a climate emergency, with clear targets to reduce CO2 emissions (direct and indirect) to net zero by 2030, and review all of its policies in the light of that declaration.