February 8, 2015

Sydney University's partial divestment plan a positive but they can and must divest the rest

Sydney, 9th February: Fossil Free USYD welcomes the University of Sydney’s decision to reduce the carbon intensity of its investments but calls again for the University to divest from all fossil fuels.

Following a sustained student-led campaign with support from Greenpeace, Australia’s oldest university last year put a freeze on new fossil fuel investments, today announcing that they will shed a number of fossil fuel companies in a plan to cut the carbon footprint of their investments by twenty percent over the next three years.

“Sydney University has taken a great step forward,” said Fossil Free USYD spokesperson Clodagh Schofield. “By starting to take responsibility for the carbon we put in the atmosphere, the University has shown leadership in managing climate investment risks that should already be a standard industry wide.

“However, Sydney University should aim higher . It’s five minutes to midnight on climate change, and we live in a country that has no viable policies to address this issue, and no plans on how to create a just transition to a viable, renewable economy.” she said.

“We, as a university community, must do more than simply begin to partially pull our own weight. Our role as a thought leader is to help Australia move first into the 21st century on climate change, and then into the future.

“Already more than twenty universities have completely divested from fossil fuels, yet Sydney University’s announcement will only see a handful of companies shed. We also don’t know how they plan to define and implement the target nor which companies will be divested.

“We are living in a time where mining giants like Adani can get $450 million in public funds and potentially billions waived in royalties for building one of the world’s largest coal mines, that apparently does not even require subsidies. The power of the fossil fuel industry is immense and impervious to the alarm bells ringing, telling us we must leave 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground or face the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

“Sydney University is in a unique position to call for a just transition to a renewable economy now, through divesting and joining the ranks of a rapidly growing list institutions worldwide, including the World Council of Churches, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Glasgow University and the British Medical Association. We are committed to working with Sydney University to see them realize full leadership on climate by divesting from all fossil fuels.

“This can be a win-win for the University. Divestment is not only a moral imperative but it is good financial management. Financial experts everywhere point to the growing risks posed by fossil fuel investments.” said Schofield.

Coal and oil prices are plummeting and fossil free indexes are outperforming their carbon-heavy benchmarks. The looming sub-clime crisis has the potential to dwarf the Global Financial Crisis, according to Sydney University alumnus and former liberal leader John Hewson.

Today’s announcement comes just a week before the first ever Global Divestment Day which will celebrate the incredible growth and increasingly international reach of the fossil fuel divestment movement. Over the last two years, more than 180 institutions representing $USD50 billion in assets have committed to divest. There are now over 500 active divestment campaigns underway at universities, cities, churches, banks, and other institutions.

Media Enquiries:

Clodagh Schofield | Fossil Free USYD | 0478 519 812

Charlie Wood | 350.org Australia | 0427 485 233