Sustainability is to be placed at the core of the Australian National University’s (ANU) investment strategy, but it’s unclear whether this means the institution will divest from fossil fuels.
ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young has agreed to meet representatives from the university’s divestment campaign group, FossilFree ANU, to discuss details of its shares in the coal and gas sectors.
Campaigners submitted a letter to Young, explaining how ANU’s investments in fossil fuels were causing social and environmental damage and were financially irresponsible.
“Universities are public institutions, sustained by and entrusted to further the public good. They ought to be open and accountable to the concerns and interests of the public, and especially their local communities”, the letter said.
“It cannot be socially responsible to profit from the damage these industries cause. Fossil fuel extraction damages local health, ecosystems, water and agriculture, and burning these fuels damages our climate. Eighty per cent of the world’s fossil fuels must stay unburnt to meet our government’s own climate targets.”
In May, the university revealed in a document that it was reviewing “the current guidelines that the Investment Advisory Committee operates under as leading to the best ethical and financial results for ANU”.
It also said that ANU sold more than 600,000 shares in coal seam gas company Metgasco, because of various complaints. However, it also bought 190,000 new shares in another coal company, according to other documents.
The student association hopes that the new sustainable investment policy will look also at fossil fuels divestment. Ray Yoshida, from the environment department of the ANU student association, wrote to Young, saying, “We note the expanding divestment movement in the US, and urge ANU to lead this movement in Australia. We are concerned ANU will otherwise be left behind.”
In June, environmentalist Bill McKibben visited ANU and spoke to the public about the necessity of divesting from fossil fuels. He previously described Australia’s coal sector as a “rogue industry” and said that coal should stay in the ground if we want to tackle climate change.