Coal

Published on February 16th, 2015 | by Joshua S Hill

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First Australian University Announces Carbon Divestment Plans

February 16th, 2015 by  

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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About the Author

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at about.me for more.



  • Offgridman

    Well some of you are criticizing the twenty percent divestment saying it’s a joke, and some are saying that at least it is a first step.
    Without knowing what part of their total investments are in fossil fuels or carbon intensive industries there is no way to tell.
    Are only ten percent of their current investments in these types of industries? Then yes twenty percent of that does seem kind of small. On the other hand are ninety percent vested in carbon producers? Then yes a twenty percent reduction of this is a big first step.
    They are simultaneously joining several self reporting emissions organizations, it should be possible to find out how sincere of an effort this is, if it isn’t already available to citizens of Australia under freedom of information policies.
    Anyone up for some research that the author of this piece didn’t do?

  • Jason hm

    Fossil energy has jumped the shark and so please it’s time to stop demonizing carbon when it’s fossil energy that’s the problem..The era where entering is going to be built out of carbon and it’s going to be friking awesome. Carbon fiber construction and synthetic resins are going to be become the new steel. Graphene will usher in new electronics possibilities and make massive long distance electrical energy transper possible..Graphen will also enhance energy storage and battery tech. Carbon coatings of differing structure will be the new nonstick and durability coatings on all sort of products with super hydrophobic properties..Carbon is fantastic so please remember what you demonize today will remain in the public consciousness for decades to come.

    • Offgridman

      Yes when it is in some forms or bonded with other materials yes we can do some awesome things with carbon. When we release it into our atmosphere bonded with two atoms of oxygen in massive quantities we do awesome damage to our environment.
      Do you really not understand the difference?

      • Jason hm

        I do but the most people don’t know crap, they just get carbon=Bad synopsis..

        • Offgridman

          “… so please remember that what you demonize today will stay in the public consciousness for decades”
          And so it needs to, the problems that we have caused with CO2 release were started centuries ago and first recognized more than a century ago. It is going to take us just as long to rectify these problems, we can’t just work at it for a few decades and think that the issue is resolved. Taking care of our planet (our home) is going to require a lifetime effort by everyone for as long as we expect to keep on making use of this earth. With no other options for a place to live right now, that essentially means that we have to be conscious of our CO2 (carbon) and other pollution forever.
          I am sorry that you feel that most people don’t know “crap”, that has not been my experience, nor what is shown by public surveys. Most people are aware of the problem and recognize that something needs to be done about it. Perhaps while you are extolling the wonders of what technology can achieve it would also be possible to explain to those that don’t understand the difference with CO2 and other emissions and help them to realize what needs to be done?

        • Ronald Brakels

          I know I score lots of free diamonds when ladies show me their engagment rings and then throw them on the ground in disgust after I inform them they’re made out of carbon. I have amassed quite a collection now and they’re very useful to have around as It’s really hard to find phonograph needles at a decent price these days, so I just cut a 24 carat diamond into slivers and use them instead to save money.

  • Philip W

    20%, that is a joke.

    • jeffhre

      Well, it’s 20% more than yesterday.

      • Philip W

        To me that’s greenwashing and they are probably just doing it because pressure is rising due to other universities divesting.

        Yeah it’s still better than nothing, but c’mon. If they would acknowledge the problem and understand what it means for the invested money they would go all in. It’s not like it would be a disadvantage for the university.

        • RobMF

          So I wonder if U Sydney students also start a lawsuit for total divestment?

          • Philip W

            I certainly hope they are doing something.

    • RobMF

      Managing the fund wisely, as the University claims the 20 percent cut represents, would involve complete divestment. Fin.

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