The Australian National University has made the decision to divest $16 million worth of investments in fossil fuel companies. ANU is preceded by thirteen universities that have divested, including Stanford University.
The reasons behind divestment are detailed in a press release put out by Fossil Free ANU on October 3rd. “[A]n independent review of ANU domestic equities undertaken by the Centre for Australian Ethical Research (CAER)… found that Santos, Iluka Resrouces, Newcrest Mining Limited, Sandfire Resources NL, Independence Group, Oil Search and Sirius Resources were the most socially irresponsible due to primarily environmental concerns.”
This decision has been made following widespread protests by students in various forms. Divestman campaigned for presidency of the ANU Students’ Association to raise awareness of the issues surrounding fossil fuels and rallying support from students.
Fossil Free ANU also held a referendum in August with the question “Should ANU stop investing in fossil fuels, such as coal and coal seam gas, which are the main causes of climate change and associated social injury?” 82% of students voted YES to ANU divesting from fossil fuels.
In response to a perceived lack of consultation by Vice Chancellor Ian Young, Fossil Free ANU presented a report to the ANU Council called Carbon Budget Consultation: Report to ANU Council. It included a petition, 52 written submissions, and statements of support from ANUSA SRC, NTEU ACT Division and ANU’s Environmental and Planning Committee.
Josh Creaser also made a statement to ANU Council. “Many have acknowledged the risk to investors and the global economy of a growing carbon bubble – this includes the International Energy Agency, HSBC, Citi Group, ANU Professor (and former Liberal leader) John Hewson and an ex-Bush era Treasury Secretary.”
Creaser further stated, “The rise of social movements and democratic organizing pose the single greatest source of risk to oil, coal and gas around the world.”
Vice Chancellor Ian Young has said that there should be an orderly transition from fossil fuels to alternative energies. “The reality is that this is a process that will take decades to occur.”
According to GoFossilFree.org.au, we can only burn 550 gigatonnes of carbon emissions between now and 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change. However, the fossil fuel industry intends to burn 2860 gigatonnes of carbon emissions.
As for Divestman, here is what he has to say, “As a superhero committed to environmental justice, I have one superpower: common sense. And common sense tells me that it is wrong for ANU to continue to profit from fossil fuel industries that are responsible for the wreckage of the planet. Today, ANU made a significant step forward in committing to stop its investments in Santos. But they still have investments in BHP Biliton, Rio-Tinto, Woodside Petroleum, Wesfarmers. I hope they can take this as a starting point and an opportunity to take leadership in fighting for our future. Onwards to a fossil free ANU and a fossil free future!”
ANU has previously approved a Socially Responsible Investment Policy (ANU) in November 2013. It states that ANU should not invest in companies “likely to cause substantial social injury.”
Photography: Fossil Free ANU
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