CLOC is a joint campaign set up by student climate-justice campaigners and local citizen climate-action groups in Oxford and Cambridge. The mission of the campaign is to persuade the colleges of the two cities to move from being laggards to leaders in tackling the climate crisis.
Although some other universities have a dual university-college governance structure, Oxford and Cambridge are unique in respect of their colleges’ wealth and influence. Combined assets of the 59 undergraduate-focussed colleges amount to £15 billion, and some colleges have property, stock and bond portfolios on a par with many hedge funds.
On the global stage, the academics associated with the colleges are at the forefront of climate change science and have been amply represented within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports. Many were lead authors on the most recent report released on 9th August, whose findings UN General Secretary António Guterres described as “Code Red for Humanity”.
Unfortunately, however, while college academics are at the cutting edge of climate change science, the college heads, bursars and governing bodies have been lagging on climate change action within their own college walls. The top-level university authorities have done better, with Cambridge University targeting the year 2038 to reach net zero carbon and Oxford 2035. The Universities have also begun to distance themselves from fossil fuel firms, both passing divestment motions in 2020.
Outside in the wider community, city and county local authorities have proclaimed climate emergencies and implemented zero carbon transition plans, while the Oxfordshire local government pension fund is rapidly cutting emissions from its portfolio and starting to divest.
A core philosophy of the two universities is that decision-making should be evidence-based. Accordingly, CLOC proposes to create league tables that will allow any observer to contrast and compare the actions taken by each college over climate change to date. These can be thought of as mirrors to the Norrington and Tompkins tables that rank colleges by academic excellence. However, instead of rating them by degrees awarded, we will rank them based on the following four criteria: 1) decarbonisation, 2) delinking, 3) divestment and 4) disclosure.
Decarbonisation concentrates on zero-carbon transition plans; delinking relates to relationships with fossil fuel companies and the banks that finance them; divestment is about the sale of investments in fossil-fuel firms; and disclosure deals with transparency.
“With COP 26 nearly upon us, we hope that the CLOC tables will act as a catalyst to accelerate those actions needed to tackle the climate crisis”
Will O’Sullivan, Oxford Climate Justice Campaign
CLOC plans to send a climate questionnaire to each college. Based on their replies and publicly available information, a climate score will be calculated for each college, and they will be rated accordingly. The rankings will then be published on the website www.theCLOC.org prior to the COP 26 climate talks in November.
A core principle behind the CLOC tables is public transparency. This approach was originally championed by former governor of the Bank of England and Oxford alumnus Mark Carney, and has now been adopted by government bodies, corporates, and non-profits across the country. The principle in the CLOC context can best be described as “no public disclosure equals no score”.
The primary goal of the CLOC tables is to highlight those colleges that have done the most work on tackling climate change to date, so they can become beacons of best practice for those that are falling behind. Through so doing, college authorities and student bodies can then work together in a positive partnership to address areas of weakness.
At this juncture in history, every organisation needs to maximise its efforts in the race to Zero Carbon if we are to avoid an environmental and ecological disaster. CLOC believes that the tables will act as a vital accelerant for the action required.