University of Cambridge > > Fluids Group Seminar (CUED) > Overview and Q&A of Topping's recommendations on the grace to cut off ties to fossil fuel companies

Overview and Q&A of Topping's recommendations on the grace to cut off ties to fossil fuel companies

Add to your list(s) Download to your calendar using vCal

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Anna Walczyk.

Lunch will be provided from 1pm. The talk will start at 1.15pm. Executive summary The University has recognised the urgency of the climate emergency and taken action to demonstrate leadership. This includes decisions to divest from fossil fuels in the endowment, commit to science-based targets, launch Cambridge Zero and align sources of funding with the University’s own ambition.

This report has been commissioned in response to a Grace calling on the University to cease collaboration of all forms with companies carrying out or facilitating exploration for new fossil fuel reserves, building new fossil fuel infrastructure or retaining membership with trade bodies lobbying against climate policy.

The report reviews the internal and external contexts of the climate crisis and the University’s role in teaching and research and makes recommendations for an amended form of the Grace to mitigate risks and pursue opportunities consistent with its charitable mission.

The Paris Agreement concluded at COP21 defined international collective ambition and laid out the architecture for action along three main tracks – mitigation, adaptation and resilience, and climate finance.

Progress to date has been woefully slow in all three tracks – emissions continue to rise, extreme weather events increase in frequency and severity faster than communities can adapt and international finance flows need to increase by a factor of five by 2030.

The technologies needed to transition to a net-zero energy system are largely understood and pathways exist in all sectors. Renewable energy generation and battery costs have declined dramatically and the tipping point of cost parity has now been passed in electricity systems and electric vehicles (EVs). These technologies are now being deployed exponentially at a rate which is on track or ahead of what is needed to reach net zero by 2050.

In other sectors clean technology options remain costlier than current high-emission options so the focus is on driving deployment up and costs down to reach the cost tipping point this decade. Two keystone technologies are particularly important: green hydrogen and alternative proteins. The Breakthrough Agenda, launched at COP26 , is an international collaborative initiative to drive progress in many of these sectors.

Progress in adaptation and resilience has been even slower. The burden of climate change falls disproportionately on those who have done the least to cause it, particularly citizens of emerging and developing economies. The Sharm el Sheikh Adaptation Agenda, launched at COP27 , provides a first practical architecture for the deployment of solutions at scale.

Climate finance lags way behind the levels necessary to invest in the transition to a resilient net-zero future. After years of excessive focus on one important yet small part of the solution [the $100bn per annum promised by rich countries], COP26 and COP27 produced a set of initiatives which now have created a much clearer roadmap of reforms across public and private, international and domestic finance needed to deliver the $2.4tr per annum by 2030 in emerging and developing economies, excluding China.

The University receives relatively small amounts of funding from industrial partners, amounting to 5.1% of all research/philanthropy funding. At an average of £3.3 million per year over the last 6 years, fossil fuel funding amounts to 0.4% of research/philanthropy funding and 0.1% of total University income.

The University has a broad range of teaching and world-class research contributing to addressing the climate crisis. Recommendation 1 is to focus on the opportunity for a major fundraising push to bolster the University’s position as a global leader in tackling the climate crisis.

CBELA reviews detailed due diligence in deciding whether or not to accept funding from fossil fuel companies. Currently BP and Shell are rated amber, even though due diligence finds that no fossil fuel companies are aligned with the University’s level of ambition.

The design of the CBELA decision-making process lacks clarity and transparency. Recommendation 2 is to significantly simplify the CBELA process by referring to credible third-party benchmarks, whilst retaining discretion for exceptional circumstances.

Recommendation 2 suggests application of the SBTi definition of a fossil fuel company. Wholly or partially-owned subsidiaries of fossil fuel companies should be considered on their own merits, so that if they are focussed on clean technology they should be seen as valid funding partners.

The Grace as written would have serious negative consequences for academic freedom and freedom of speech, by censoring who academics are allowed to work with. Recommendation 3 limits the application of the Grace to research/philanthropic funding only and does not extend restrictions to other forms of collaboration.

The Grace as written extends the consideration of climate alignment to many more companies. Recommendation 4 retains the narrow scope of fossil fuel companies for the CBELA process whilst suggesting a timely extension of alignment activities to all companies according to a plan to be produced within 18 months.

This talk is part of the Fluids Group Seminar (CUED) series.

Tell a friend about this talk:

This talk is included in these lists:

Note that ex-directory lists are not shown.


© 2006-2024, University of Cambridge. Contact Us | Help and Documentation | Privacy and Publicity