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World-renowned university seeks to end 200-year-old ties with major international bank: ‘[A] net zero engagement strategy’

Meanwhile, more and more financial institutions are looking to go greener.

Meanwhile, more and more financial institutions are looking to go greener.

Photo Credit: iStock

Cambridge University is reportedly considering severing its 200-year history with Barclays due to the bank’s refusal to stop financing new oil and gas projects.

Instead, the university is looking to find a financial institution with “robust climate policies” to manage several hundred million pounds in cash and money market funds.

The move would be in line with what the university has called a “net zero engagement strategy with the banking sector.”

Cambridge is not the only university in the United Kingdom to distance itself from financial institutions that back dirty energy. Leeds University switched to Lloyds in September 2023, saying it has the lowest investments in dirty energy among major UK banks. 

Meanwhile, more and more financial institutions are looking to go greener. In late 2022, HSBC — one of the banks that Cambridge is reportedly in talks with — announced that it would no longer fund new oil and gas projects. Previously, the bank had been one of the biggest lenders to dirty energy companies.

According to the Guardian, students and staff have demanded that Cambridge switch to a greener lender, and the university already pledged a major pullout from direct and indirect investments in dirty energy by 2030. Still, Cambridge was recently outed as one of 44 UK universities that collectively accepted more than $51 million from oil, coal, and gas companies since 2022.

The move away from funding dirty energy is significant for global health. That’s because burning coal, oil, and gas causes pollution that can trigger health problems like cardiovascular disease and respiratory ailments. 

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the adverse effects caused by these planet-warming pollutants are costing Americans alone more than $820 billion in health costs each year.

Plus, burning dirty energy is the primary driver of a warming planet, the effects of which include more frequent catastrophic weather and the disappearance of species.

A college bursar at Cambridge told The Financial Times, “We’re dealing with people who are likely going to be leaders of tomorrow. And the biggest of their concerns is climate change.”

A number of social media users were optimistic about the news. 

People & Planet, a student network fighting for climate, worker, and migrant justice at UK universities, took to X, formerly known as Twitter, saying, “The University of Cambridge is under pressure from staff and students to ditch banking with Barclays! This would move the management of several hundred million pounds away from ‘Europe’s dirtiest bank’!”

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