The University of Sydney in Australia has announced its intention to “substantially reduce” its carbon-related investments over the next three years, a first for Australian universities.
The news comes after a long line of international educational institutions have made similar (though somewhat more concrete) fossil-fuel divestment announcements — the most recent of these being the continued battle between Harvard University and its students.
The University of Sydney has set itself a reduction target of 20%, “relative to the footprint of its current listed equity composite benchmark.” This somewhat underwhelming divestment commitment has led the University to claim it “is visibly demonstrating its commitment to addressing climate change.”
However, given that such an announcement follows much tougher and complete divestment decisions by much larger and well-respected institutions around the world — including Stanford University, for example — one wonders at its significance.
It’s at least a step in the right direction.
“The new strategy balances the University’s obligation to manage funds wisely on behalf of our students, staff, donors and alumni with its desire to address climate change and protect Australia’s heritage,” said the University’s Vice-Principal (Operations) Sara Watts.
“This strategy will give the University a legitimate voice in the conversation on how organisations can best address climate change risks,” Watts continued. “The University’s strategy signals to the entire market that investors are concerned about the impact of climate change and expect contributing sectors to respond with plans to reduce their emissions.”
The decision comes following a lengthy review process, which took into account “leading practise on sensitive investments, and the current global views and actions surrounding fossil fuel investments.”
In addition, the University:
- Has become a signatory to the CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project), the world’s largest source of company-reported emissions data, and a global movement urging companies to disclose carbon emissions and set targets to reduce them;
- Has joined the UN-led Portfolio Decarbonisation Coalition, a coalition of investors who collectively are committed to decarbonising $US100 billion of its investment assets;
- Will incorporate carbon footprint reporting capability into the selection and review of listed equity investment managers; and
- Will further expand its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) framework to put in place ethical investment standards that support the economic and social rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
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