Expel oil companies from school

Over the past decade, students around the world have successfully pressured many universities to sell their fossil fuel investments. To...


Over the past decade, students around the world have successfully pressured many universities to sell their fossil fuel investments. Today, I’m taking a turn as a guest host of the Climate Forward newsletter with a bit of news on how this movement is expanding into new territory.

Cambridge University faculty and senior staff are set to vote on a measure that would force the university to stop accepting funding from coal, oil and gas companies. It would be the first major university to do so, and a vote could take place as early as this fall.

People I interviewed wouldn’t make any predictions about the vote, but the proposal appeared to have strong support, especially among a younger cohort of university scholars.

Building on this success, activists are increasingly focusing on the millions of dollars that universities accept from the oil and gas industry for research, sponsorships and collaborations. These donations allow companies to green their imagesactivists say, appropriating environmental prestige and credentials even as they continue to pour billions into new fossil fuel projects that scientists say are heating the planet to dangerous levels.

“By working with the fossil fuel industry, we give them legitimacy and implicitly endorse them,” said Luke Kemp, a researcher who studies climate risk at Cambridge and one of the academics who called for the vote. “That should be completely indisputable to any academic who is clearly and genuinely concerned about climate change.” Kemp said he plans to vote yes on the measure.

At Cambridge, corporate partnerships include the BP Institute, established with a £22million gift from the oil and gas giant in 2000, and a Royal Dutch Shell-funded professorship whose research involves oil drilling. Oil and gas companies also fund academic awards at the university that promote oil careers and a range of research projects. A new article published tuesday have shown that the climate scenarios proposed by the oil majors, including BP and Shell, remain incompatible with Objectives of the Paris Agreement for a safe and habitable planet.

James Hardy, a spokesperson for Cambridge, said the university’s industry partnerships support “world-leading research that is essential to the energy transition” and that it works with partners who are carefully assessed by experts and ” chosen because they had highly specialized skills and expertise, scale and access to global markets.The issue of collaboration “remains under discussion within the university”.

The University Council could always raise procedural objections to the vote, or seek to amend or delay the proposal, before proceeding to the vote.

An investigation by The Guardian newspaper revealed that the University of Cambridge had accepted £14 million, or about $17 million, from the oil giants between 2017 and 2021, second in Britain only to Imperial College London, which focuses on science and engineering. Cambridge said its own tally of fossil fuel funds it had received for research projects was £5million over the past two financial years.

Shell said its partnerships with academia have led to valuable research and the result of the Cambridge vote “will not change our commitment to pursuing climate science with academic institutions around the world”. BP declined to comment.

The vote comes as universities elsewhere come under increasing pressure to reassess their research partnerships with the fossil fuel industry. Stanford University has come under fire this year after announcing that a new climate school would accept donations from fossil fuel companies.

Hundreds of Stanford students, alumni, faculty, and staff have since signed an open letter calling on the school not to accept funding for fossil fuels.

“We now know that in many universities, climate and energy research programs have become financially dependent on oil and gas funding, and this poses a huge problem in terms of independence,” said Benjamin Franta , a researcher at Stanford University, specializing in history. of climate retardation and denial, including the effects of the fossil fuel industry influence in academia.

The scheduled Cambridge vote is called under an archaic system at the university that allows scholars to submit proposals, or “pardons”, on issues involving the governance of the institution. Previous pardons, which are considered binding if passed by vote, have involved free speech guidelines and whether to continue the tradition of publicly displaying student academic grades.

The latest pardon calls on the university to no longer accept research funding, sponsorships or other collaborations with fossil fuel companies that continue to build new fossil fuel infrastructure or explore new fossil fuel reserves. . It also demands that the university cut ties with companies that continue to be part of trade associations that lobby against climate legislation.

These conditions would almost certainly disqualify all major oil and gas companies operating today.

Fossil Free Research, a student-led campaign against industry-funded climate research at universities, urged academics to vote in favour. “We hope they will keep in mind those who did not vote in this ballot,” said Zak Coleman, campaign spokesman and former undergraduate president of the Cambridge Students’ Union.

Emily Sandford, an astrophysics researcher at Cambridge, said she felt a generational responsibility to act on the climate. “I now have students who grew up in a world where climate change was never about to happen,” she said. “Faculty and those in power have dropped the ball, and it’s time we did something.”


The coming megastorm: No one knows exactly when, but a massive week-long rain and snowstorm, supercharged by climate change, could hit California within the next few decades. The Times used data from a new study to visualize what it might look like.

A generational divide: As climate bill moves to President Biden’s desk, young activists are warning lawmakers that the the job is not done.

What is in the climate law: We have a detailed analysis of what The Inflation Reduction Act includes.

“Blood Diamonds”: Western countries say the war in Ukraine is turning Russia into an exporter of conflict diamonds. Quarrel exposes difficulty in regulating the trade in precious stones.

A defender of nature dies: The killing of a ranger protecting rhinos in South Africa has sparked fears that poaching syndicates may be more and more violent.

Exceptional oil gains: Saudi Aramco reported second-quarter profits nearly double those of a year ago. He predicted that the demand for oil would increase the rest of the decade.

Upgrade or pay: New York developers are racing to reduce emissions in large buildings to meet limits set by a recent law. Owners who do not comply in time may expect hefty fines.


The case against carbon capture: Technology can actually drive the extraction of more oil and gasaccording to Charles Harvey and Kurt House.

The Ford F-150 Lightning, a three-ton electric truck that can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in about four seconds, could deliver an overall win: It aims to revitalize manufacturing in the Midwest and South while reducing America’s greenhouse gas emissions. The problem is that the trucks are expensive and right now there are not enough of them to meet the demand. Much depends on whether these problems can be overcome.


Thanks for reading. We will be back on Friday.

Manuela Andreoni, Claire O’Neill and Douglas Alteen contributed to Climate Forward.

contact us at climateforward@nytimes.com. We read every message and respond to a lot!

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