• Cambridge University Endowment Fund  is one of the largest in Europe
  • The university also said it plans to cut its own greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the year 2038
  • More than one-half of all public British universities have committed to divest from fossil fuel

Britain’s iconic Cambridge University became the latest major educational institution to divest from fossil fuels and commit to renewable energy.

The University said it will pull out all of its fossil fuel investments by 2030. As a result, the £3.5 billion ($4.5 billion) Cambridge University Endowment Fund – one of the largest in Europe – will boost its investments in renewable energy.

Under the plan, the endowment fund will:

  • Withdraw all of its investments with “conventional energy-focused public equity managers” by December 2020.
  • Ramp up “significant investments” in renewable energy by 2025.
  • Divest from all “meaningful exposure” in fossil fuels by 2030.

The university also said it plans to cut its own greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the year 2038 – more than a decade before a similar target date set by the British government.

“The university is responding comprehensively to a pressing environmental and moral need for action with an historic announcement that demonstrates our determination to seek solutions to the climate crisis,” Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Stephen J. Toope said in a statement. “We will approach with renewed confidence our collaborations with government, industry and research partners around the world as together we work for a zero-carbon future.”

The university also said that from now on all research funding and other donations will only be accepted from donors that can “demonstrate compatibility” with Cambridge’s objectives on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Such funding totaled about £700 million ($908 million) last year, the Financial Times reported.

Over the years, major oil companies, including BP (BP), ExxonMobil (XOM) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A), have donated money to the university, FT noted.

The endowment fund’s Chief Investment Officer Tilly Franklin said: “Climate change, ecological destruction, and biodiversity loss present an urgent existential threat, with severe risks to humankind and all other life on Earth.”

Ben Margolis, undergraduate president of the Cambridge Students' Union, praised the moves.

“This is a landmark decision for which students, staff and the Students' Union have been campaigning for years,” he said. “The divestment report presents overwhelming evidence that the fossil-fuel industry's practices are not compatible with the university's position as a world-leading site of scientific research. ... We hope that other institutions join us in divesting and take firm action in the face of the climate emergency.”

In April of this year, Cambridge’s principal peer, Oxford University, vowed to divest from fossil in its own £4.1 billion ($5.3 billion) endowment fund – but it did not establish a deadline.

Earlier this year, a group of U.K.-based environmental campaigners and student activist organizations said that more than one-half of all public British universities have committed to divest from fossil fuels.

People & Planet, the National Union of Students and Students Organizing for Sustainability-U.K. also said that about £12.4 billion of endowments across the higher education sector have already been divested from fossil fuels.

But People & Planet President Laura Clayson urged Cambridge to cut off any remaining relationships it has with donors from the oil and gas industries.

“[Cambridge] can, and must, go further by severing all other ties they hold with the fossil fuel industry,” she said, FT reported.

In the U.S., several major educational institutions, including the University of California and Seattle University, have committed to divesting from fossil fuels.