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Cambridge University ending fossil fuel investments

The University of Cambridge said Thursday that it will kick all fossil fuel investments out of its portfolio within the next decade as part of a plan to end the emissions of greenhouse gases it's responsible for by 2038.

The centuries-old English institution is joining a growing list of universities around the world giving in to pressure from environmental campaigners to act against climate change.

"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," Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope said in his annual university address. "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."

Cambridge said its 3.5 billion pound ($4.5 billion) endowment fund will shift investment from fossil fuels toward renewable energy by 2030.

By 2038, the university aims to achieve what is known as "net zero" greenhouse gas emissions across its entire portfolio, meaning none of the businesses it invests in generate more emissions than they capture. Cambridge is setting the same goal for emissions from its own operations, such as those caused by heating and electricity.

The British government has set a net zero target for the country by 2050.

Cambridge University's endowment fund is one of the biggest for a European university, though it is dwarfed by those held by some American institutions. Dozens of US universities have committed to divesting themselves of at least some fossil fuel assets.

The University of California announced in May that it completed the process of purging its $126-billion portfolio of such investments in favour of renewable energy.

One motivation for Cambridge University's move may be its location. Founded some 800 years ago, Cambridge lies about 6 meters (20 feet) above sea level, making the risk of flooding significantly greater the more oceans rise from global warming.  

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