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Friday, June 24, 2022

Somerville College to divest from fossil fuels

Issy Kenney-Herbert discusses Somerville's green initiatives.

Somerville College has committed to fully divesting from fossil fuels by July 2021. The update on their website stated that Somerville has already divested from £400,000 of investments in coal, and from a “significant proportion of our holdings in oil and gas companies”. Their plan is to “re-invest this income in new green investments.”

This forms part of a wider series of initiatives as well as a Sustainability Working Group that is comprised of representatives from Somerville including undergraduates, postgraduates, academics, and support staff who are going to be working towards helping Somerville become a “carbon-neutral college as fast as possible, but by 2050 at the very latest”. 

Somerville’s new College Climate Change Champion, Professore Renier van der Hoorn, will chair the efforts of this group. 

They are also making changes to lighting, heating, managing waste, food and biodiversity across the college – from replacing the lights that expire with efficient LEDs to implementing a comprehensive waste management strategy. 

Finally, Somerville outlined how it will continue to support climate change research including hosting a conference looking at the development of sustainable agriculture in partnership with UPL in September.

The Oxford University Climate Justice Campaign responded to the news, saying: “We are incredibly pleased to mark the Fossil Free National Day of Action by announcing that, after years of campaigning, Somerville College has committed to fully divest their
endowment fund, worth just shy of £100 million, from fossil fuels by July 2021 and re-invest the income in new green investments! They have also announced that the College will aim to be carbon neutral as fast as possible, and by 2050 at the latest.

“Today’s National Day of Action theme is Solidarity Across Borders. Divesting is the greatest statement Somerville can make to show its solidarity with frontline communities and Indigenous Peoples who are suffering the worst of the climate crisis. We are pleased to note that Somerville offers scholarships to refugee students. But as forced climate migrancy becomes increasingly unavoidable, it would have been hypocritical for Somerville to offer these scholarships while still invested in fossil fuel companies. We are delighted that Somerville’s stance is now more consistent and holistic. Climate justice cannot be separated from migrant justice.

“This announcement follows other divestment announcements this week from Cambridge including from Pembroke College Cambridge and Trinity College Cambridge. People power is turning the tide against the fossil fuel industry. But too many Oxford colleges, such as St John’s, are still investing millions in the fossil fuel industry, risking our shared future. We won’t stop campaigning until every college has committed to divest.”

Image Credit: Philip Allfrey/CC BY-SA 3.0

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