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Cambridge academics vote to delay action on fossil fuel ties

Regent House has approved the Council’s recommendation to delay decisions on fossil fuel-funded research


Cambridge academics have voted to approve a delay on a motion which called into question the university’s links to the fossil fuel industry through research funding.

The delay was approved by 65 per cent of academics. Cambridge Climate Justice (CCJ), that has campaigned for Fossil Free Research since early last year, is unhappy with the decision: “We urge Cambridge to hold the promised democratic debate on Fossil Free Research as soon as possible to cut ties with this negligent and dangerous industry.”

The initial motion, which was tabled in July 2022 and would have gone to a vote in Regent House, was withheld by the University Council in October.

The council argued that the proposal, to cut research ties with the fossil fuel industry, must be revised in order to “support academic freedom,” remain “consistent with the university’s charitable purposes,” and avoid compromising “the university’s ability to be financially stable.”

The study proposed by the Council in lieu of a vote only found its author, Nigel Topping, last month, despite the report’s publication being promised for early Lent term.

Despite the approved delay, Cambridge Climate Justice is keen to take the positives from the vote, in which 553 academics voted for the motion to enter Regent House. The group expressed this optimism in a statement released to The Tab: “While obviously disappointed that the delay continues, we are delighted that over a third of academics have shown they see the urgency of the climate crisis, like we do.

“We have worked tirelessly to demonstrate the perils of collaborating with the fossil fuel industry, and are glad to see our academics support us.”

Dr Emily Sandford, a Research Fellow in astrophysics, joins the group in taking heart from the number of academics voting for immediate action on fossil free research, and is urging more to join their ranks: “My colleagues are excellent researchers, but this issue goes beyond any individual academic, because the evidence is clear: industry money is associated with industry-favourable outcomes.

“And when an industry’s business model is diametrically opposed to a stable planet for humanity, we must act without delay. I’m glad to see so many other academics agree.”

As did Sandford, CCJ re-emphasised its belief that green research must be carried out free from involvement with fossil fuel companies, citing the findings of the journal Nature Climate Change, which ruled that “fossil-funded centres are more favourable in their reports towards natural gas than towards renewable energy.”

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment.