The Sunday times reported on 24 July that Cambridge University is considering a new name for its BP Institute for Multiphase Flow. None has yet been announced, but the paper reported Vice-Chancellor Prof. Stephen Toope as saying that a name that better reflected the University’s values was to be agreed.
The move came after pressure from a number of climate action groups: Extinction Rebellion Cambridge, Extinction Rebellion Youth Cambridge, Fossil Free Research, This is Not a Drill and Cambridge Climate Justice Society (formerly Cambridge Zero Carbon). How did they respond to news of the planned renaming?
Optimism and cautious welcome
Fossil Free Research, whom we’ve interviewed before, were optimistic. Their statement began:
“We are thrilled to see the University of Cambridge finally renaming its BP Institute in the wake of powerful and sustained activism from students, community leaders and academics. This is a win…”
And the statement went on to hope for more of the same. “While a new name is symbolically important, it is vital that the institute also adopt an official policy of rejecting all fossil fuel industry funding and research partnerships. It is also essential that the university use its vast resources to support the institute in finding funding sources which do not compromise the institute’s espoused research mission.”
Extinction Rebellion Cambridge offered a similarly cautious welcome.
“We’re obviously pleased the BP Institute is being renamed … it shows that the University of Cambridge is feeling the heat from campaigns like ours and others like Fossil Free Research. However, we’re worried it’s not enough – as far as we understand, there will still be BP-funded research taking place in the building and there is a lack of transparency around what exactly that research is and how it relates to oil and gas. The university have said that there is still some oil and gas research taking place at the BPI.”
Scepticism not placated
The most sceptical response of all came from This Is Not A Drill. Their campaign tactics extend to breaking windows and doors, and their Twitter stream retweets praise of Swedish activists who deflated tyres. Their response to the news of plans for a name change included this paragraph:
“The renaming of the Institute is a small step. It shows that the University is coming to realise that working with fossil fuel companies is morally wrong. But we’re worried they’re going to use this rebranding to hide the fact that they continue to do harmful fossil fuel research, and work with companies like Shell, BP and Schlumberger on greenwashing projects. We’re not going to be placated by branding changes – we’ll keep taking direct action as long as necessary.”
EAB asked the Institute and the University for comments, but at the time of publishing none have been received.