Shortly after the Australian National University (ANU) divested from seven fossil fuels firms, gaining criticism from the government, more universities are being pressured by academics and students to follow suit, in order to avoid dangerous effects of climate change on the economy, health and environment.
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Three members of the Group of Eight universities – formed by leading Australian education institutions – are expected to receive pressure from faculty members and student groups in order to ditch investment in oil, coal and gas companies that are blamed for worsening climate change and putting investors’ money at risk.
The University of New South Wales for instance will be urged to ensure its “commitment to sustainability is not just confined to research but is a core part of our business”, while the University of Melbourne’s Health school launched a petition supporting the Fossil Free movement.
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The petition states, “We are likely to see an increase in extreme weather events such as cyclones, floods, storms and bushfires which have the potential to devastate the physical and mental health of communities directly as well as the health infrastructure that supports them. Climate change also threatens to shift the profile of infectious diseases, including food-borne, water-borne and mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever and Ross River fever.
“As members of the University of Melbourne’s world-leading community of health researchers, educators, advocates, professionals and students, we believe that it is crucial for the integrity of our work that the institutions which support us do not undermine our projects towards achieving better health.”
The move comes short after the ANU announced it had divested from seven companies, following the guidelines of a responsible investment advisor CAER. The decision led to widespread criticism from the industry and the Australian government – known for not making climate change a priority on its agenda.
There is a growing movement pushing for universities and religious institutions to divest from fossil fuels firms, both for environmental and financial concerns, given that investors could end up with devalued, stranded assets if policies are put in place to ensure reserves stay in the ground to avoid a global warming higher than 2C.
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