Cambridge University ‘set to rename BP Institute’ amid climate backlash

·3-min read
Cambridge University ‘set to rename BP Institute’ amid climate backlash

The University of Cambridge is reportedly renaming its BP Institute science research building after a backlash from environmental campaigners.

A source from within the university told The Independent that the institution is in the final stages of an agreement to change the name.

A spokesperson for the Fossil Free Research group, which campaigns to end the “toxic” influence of fossil fuel money on climate change-related research in universities, said they were “thrilled” at the news.

They said: “This move testifies to the increasing awareness of universities that their campus communities, the broader scientific and academic communities, and the public will not accept higher education’s continued partnerships with the oil and gas giants driving climate breakdown.

“At the same time that we celebrate this major victory, we must also recognise that the University of Cambridge and its peer institutions must go further than merely renaming buildings to stop aiding and abetting Big Oil.

“To truly divorce themselves from the reputational and material support that their research lends to the fossil fuel industry’s deadly business model, universities must officially ban research partnerships with and reject funding from this industry.”

However, a spokesperson for the university said a decision has not been finalised. “The University of Cambridge is a democratic institution and there are always discussions about a very broad range of issues including the names of its many buildings and institutes,” the spokesperson said.

“No formal decision has been made to rename the BP Institute. The University decided in 2020 to accept donations from energy companies only if they aligned with our aims of working towards a zero carbon future.

“The research conducted at the BP Institute focuses on developing a range of energy sources to help in the transition, including battery technology, geothermal power, and carbon storage.”

In May, Cambridge University students and academics occupied the university’s BP institute demanding that university leaders end research partnerships with fossil fuel companies.

The group of around 40 people, including three academics, occupied the building for 63 minutes, one for each year since they say oil companies were first alerted to the environmental dangers posed by their business model by scientists.

An analysis by Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in the US found BP is the sixth most polluting company in the world.

In December openDemocracy reported that Cambridge and Oxford universities had received millions of pounds in funding from oil giants. The website put in a Freedom of Information request asking universities to reveal details of any funding they had received since 2017 from eight of the biggest energy firms: BP, Shell, Total, Equinor, Eni, Chevron, Exxon or ConocoPhillips.

Of those that provided details, Cambridge, Oxford and Imperial College London had received by far the most, according to openDemocracy. Cambridge University said it had accepted some £14m, Oxford University around £8m and Imperial College London some £54m, it said. The Independent hasn’t independently verified this reporting.

A spokesperson for BP said the BP Institute is a separate organisation and did not issue a statement.

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