On Wednesday 22nd April students gathered in Union Court to join their voices with Fossil Free ANU and the ANU Environment Collective to persuade the executive of ANU to ‘Divest the Rest’ by pulling investment from companies dealing with fossil fuels. Miriam Adams-Schimminger from Fossil Free ANU said that the problem is that “ANU is invested in fossil fuels and companies involved in the financing extraction and burning of fossil fuels, and fossil fuels are bad for the climate and communities”.
Last year ANU, as part of its Socially Responsible Investment Policy, divested from seven companies as a result of the push to divest from fossil fuel companies. However, while all those companies were resource companies, only two of them actually dealt with fossil fuels.
The National Day of Campus Divestment Action at universities in Australia on April 22 was held as part of a wider international campaign run by 350.org – an organisation generating movements across the globe based on the premise that to preserve the planet, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere must be reduced from its current level of 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm.
“Divest the rest” is part of the “Fossil Free” campaign of 350.org which encourages organisations and institutions that serve the public good to divest from fossil fuels.
‘Divesting’ is the opposite of investing – it means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. 350.org states that fossil fuel investments are a risk for the planet, and for that reason they’re calling people to divest from these companies.
Fossil Free ANU argues that while last year’s divestment was a good first step, it was not enough. Adams-Schimminger from the organisation said that they were “not going to stop campaigning until we do have a fossil free ANU and we have divested the rest”.
Adams-Schimminger also stated that in light of Ian Young stepping down as Vice-Chancellor this year, it would be “a brilliant legacy for him if he were to make ANU Fossil Free”.
After the Rally in Union Court, Fossil Free ANU met with Vice-Chancellor Ian Young to present him with a 32-metre long petition. Adams-Schimminger said that the meeting was friendly, and that Vice-Chancellor Young was impressed with ANU Fossil Free’s campaign and offered to present the petition at the next Council meeting on May 30.
The Council is the body that will ultimately make the decision about divesting, and Adams-Schimminger stated that Fossil Free ANU is now in conversation with member of the Council to offer them support.
“It’s important for them to know that in the face of the kind of criticism the University came under last year that divesting the rest is a good move. They’ve already made a good start, and we don’t want angry media and politicians bullying them out of divesting the rest.”
On whether Fossil Free ANU felt the petition would be received well by the Council, Adams-Schimminger said “the petition is quite impressive, and we do have a few allies on Council, so those things point to it being favourably received. We don’t know about other Councillors, so hopefully our lobbying will get them moving toward being onside by that time.”
Vice-Chancellor Ian Young stated in relation to the Divestment undertaken by ANU last year, that “climate change is the most serious issue ever to have faced humanity”.
Young also stated that “we need to move from a carbon economy” and that he has “a strong belief that the University’s investment strategy should be aligned with these goals”.
However he also said that “the divestment debate is nuanced. Some in the divestment lobby want ANU to divest of any company which has any interest in fossil fuels, irrespective of the full portfolio of the company. Others, on the other side of the fence, say we should not divest of any company operating legally in Australia.”