BP chief urges Cambridge University to keep fossil fuel investments

BP’s chief executive has come under fire from campaigners after he urged Cambridge University not to drop its fossil fuel investments.

Bob Dudley was greeted with laughter when he told an industry conference on Tuesday: “We donate and do lots of research at Cambridge so I hope they come to their senses on this.”

His comments came a week after he launched BP’s climate change strategy, which involves expanding into clean energy and capping carbon emissions.

“These [divestment] efforts are coming out of the US, the east coast and west coast, and New York, and it is generally the simplified idea that we turn everything into renewables – that climate change will be solved by renewables,” he said.

“When you dig into it and look into the numbers, of course, it can’t work. You’ve got to get more sophisticated about it.”

Divestment campaigners reacted angrily and said Cambridge’s academic freedom was at risk.

Cambridge Zero Carbon Society, which is lobbying the university to ditch its estimated £377m investment in fossil fuels, said: “BP’s mask slipped to reveal the ugliness lying beneath.

“Mr Dudley’s outrageous threat is just another sign of an industry desperately clinging on to power, knowing its only chance for survival is to subvert democracy at universities like Cambridge and leech off their reputation.”

Cambridge has previously rejected calls to divest from fossil fuel companies, arguing it is better to engage with them.

But the university has faced renewed pressure from hundreds of academics to rethink the direction of its £6.2bn endowment fund – the biggest of any UK university.

BP donated £22m to fund an institute at Cambridge that has nearly 40 staff working on how to maximise oil and gas extraction.

Next week, the company is expected to report higher profit for the first quarter of 2018, driven by increased production and a higher oil price, which has risen by about 13% over the past two months.