Several hundred academics and staff members at Australian National University signed an open letter requesting the school jettison its oil and gas assets, even as the school promises to table the measure, citing the need to keep the school financially stable.
The ANU letter calls on the university to make its fossil fuel assets transparent, as well as ending whatever oil assets the school currently has by 2021.
Activist with Fossil Free, a group associated with the controversial environmentalist Bill McKibben, delivered the letter signed by 450 staff and academics to the school’s vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt.
The University currently has $43 million sunk in fossil fuel assets, according to Fossil Free spokeswoman and ANU student Zoe Neumayer, which would place it among a handful of universities gathering more than $40 million in fossil fuel assets.
Among those rebuking the divestment charge are Harvard University, which has $107.8 million in fossil fuel assets, as well as Yale University, with a lofty oil and coal asset portfolio of $51.09 million.
“(We believe) the ANU needs to divest from fossil fuels in order to properly be a global climate leader,” Neumayer told reporters Tuesday, noting also that nearly 82 percent of students voted for divestment
The University Council’s decision to table the open letter comes two years after the school divested shares in 7 mining companies.
ANU moved in 2014 to purge assets from Australia mining companies Santos and Iluka Resources, following calls from independent groups for the school to become more socially responsible.
Officials condemned the move at the time.
“Sadly, no, the universities govern themselves. But I think to suggest that companies like Santos and Iluka, which are both excellent companies, are somehow not ethical investments is a bizarre decision,” Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, told reporters.
That was then, this is now.
Schmidt, an astrophysicist who was recently appointed the school’s vice chancellor and an avowed proponent of fighting the advent of man-made global warming — said he still recognizes the school has responsibilities to its faculty and staff.
“The council has to balance both its fiduciary responsibilities to provide the funds for students and staff needs, such as superannuation payments and student scholarships, with that of socially responsible investments,” he said.
Schmidt added: “It is a complex issue, and both the council and I welcome the views of staff and students.”
He said the school would continue to fight global warming despite ANU’s decision to table requests to divest.
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