The college has reached a significant milestone in our move towards becoming carbon neutral with the sale of our final holdings in fossil fuels.
As the climate crisis grows more urgent with each passing year, it was crucial for Somerville to act. In 2019, we resolved to become a net-zero college as fast as possible, giving ourselves a deadline of 2050 (which has now come forward to 2040), with divestment a crucial supporting action.
We know that actions speak louder than words, so we waited to celebrate this news with you all until the job was done. Our holdings in fossil fuels are no more – and, by reinvesting the income raised in new, sustainable investments, we will maximise the positive impact of divestment.
In addition to divestment, we have implemented a flurry of changes over the last two years, many of them led by our Sustainability Working Group, chaired by the college Climate Change Champion, the marine and freshwater ecologist Associate Professor Michelle Jackson.
Among these initiatives, one of the most exciting is the work being done by our Sustainability Working Group on a new sustainable travel policy which will incentivise those students and academics who benefit from college-subsidised travel to choose rail where suitable, rather than alternatives with a higher carbon footprint.
Over in the kitchens, meanwhile, we are serving less red meat (we are the one of the first colleges to stop serving lamb entirely and have reduced the use of beef to once a week). We are also sourcing ingredients locally wherever possible and, once refurbishments are complete this summer, we will use energy-efficient induction cookers, allowing us to prepare food without the need for fossil fuels.
We have also modernised our buildings with new energy efficient heating and lighting. Our latest accommodation block, the Catherine Hughes Building, was constructed with the use of sustainable cross-laminated timber to improve insulation and reduce the building’s carbon footprint. All of our energy comes from 100% renewable suppliers.
“I am delighted that we have now completed the process of divesting from fossil fuels,” said college Treasurer, Andrew Parker.
“I’d like to thank our partners for their invaluable assistance in navigating the challenge of taking our endowment in a new, greener direction despite the ongoing pandemic.”
“The Somerville community is united in its desire to make Somerville a carbon neutral college and address the climate crisis,” said Somerville’s Principal Jan Royall.
“Divestment is a brilliant first act; now, let’s get on with the show.”
As its next move, the college has recently agreed in principle to the appointment of a new Sustainability Officer who will help to orchestrate, facilitate and support Somerville’s efforts. The post will be part funded by the undergraduate and graduate student bodies as well as the college administration, in a statement of unity as we tackle the challenge of going carbon neutral.