ANU’s Carbon Budget Solutions — Have your say!

ANU has announced it will develop a policy on socially responsible investment (SRI)! This is great news, after we revealed over $80 million investments coal, gas and oil on ANU’s books.

But the policy may end up too weak to stop more fossil fuel investments. ANU’s advisors are already recommending the policy shouldn’t require ANU to go fossil free. :(

What’s more, the VC has decided there’s no need for public input. We disagree, and that’s why we’re launching this consultation on ANU’s Carbon Budget Solutions.

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Click here to have your say.

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Invest in our future, not fossil fuels!

Points we made in our submission:

  • ANU is has a great reputation for leadership on sustainability teaching and research, which should extend to its investments.
  • Fossil fuel extraction damages local health, water, ecosystems and communities.
  • As the Climate Commission recently discussed, 80% of the world’s fossil fuels must stay unburnt to meet our government’s own safety target of 2 degree temperature increase.
  • It cannot be socially responsible to profit from this damage.
  • Divesting would secure ANU’s finances over the medium term, protecting it from the ‘carbon bubble’  from global climate action and falling renewables costs.
  • Leadership through divestment would also make ANU a more attractive option for donations; fossil fuel investments will turn away donors who wont want their money put into coal mines and fracking.
  • The divestment movement is booming around the world and ANU should lead, not get left behind. Among those already going fossil free are San Francisco, Seattle and many other US Cities, US Colleges including San Francisco State, and churches including the Uniting Church in NSW and ACT.
  • Divestment isn’t risky: if US Colleges had divested 10 years ago, they would have made more money!

You can read Fossil Free ANU’s submission here.

Read on to see our response to the Vice-Chancellor, as well as a record of our email correspondences.

Our submission to the Vice-Chancellor encouraging him to adopt public consultation in developing a SRI policy:

Dear Vice-Chancellor Young and the ANU Investment Advisory Committee,

The ANU Environment Collective welcomes the ANU’s recent decision to implement a new Socially Responsible Investment policy. This is the first step in bringing the ANU’s investment decisions in line with the expectations of the ANU community, and provides an opportunity for the ANU to show leadership on the pressing issues of our times.

We welcome the opportunity afforded to have input into this policy and to meet with any member of the ANU administration to discuss this matter further. Many times over the last two years we have requested meetings with you and with ANU administration, and we trust this new request for input and to meet signals an intention to engage in good faith.

However, we are concerned with the fact the ANU seeks no broader input. The Investment Advisory Committee itself recommended that a special committee be established for this purpose, which the Council declined. When the student representatives on Council asked how the community could have input, Council said this would be possible through the Advisory Committee. Weeks later, having heard no further, we asked how far the ANU might extend the recent ‘Budget Solutions’ consultation process. This process aimed to demonstrate transparency and good faith in engaging the ANU community, which is why we were disappointed to find out that the ANU will not be requesting input from the broader community on the investment policy. We welcome the opportunity afforded by the Vice-Chancellor to make a submission on the matter, but we feel that is insufficient.

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 ANU has, in recent years, experienced the results of failing to uphold this responsibility, and we imagine that this was a motivation behind the recent “Budget Solutions” consultation process.

Accordingly, we are today announcing our own “Carbon Budget Solutions” consultation process. Over the coming weeks, we will be calling on members of the ANU community, the general public and those affected by companies in which ANU invests to have their say about what they think a socially responsible investment policy would look like for the ANU.

We note that our petition from ANU students, staff and alumni calling for a Fossil Free ANU has already secured 500 signatures. We will be working to build this petition further.

The petition calls for ANU to:

– investigate and disclose the extent of its carbon exposure (through the Asset Owner’s Disclosure Project survey);

– freeze all new investments in coal, gas and oil;

– develop a plan to transition out of these industries over five years.

We have outlined our own concerns about the ANU’s fossil fuel investments in previous correspondence, and in our motion and brief to the last Council meeting. We remind you that this was blocked from being added to the agenda. We trust you still have these on record, and have attached a copy of the brief for your convenience, with an updated cover sheet responding to recent events. We summarise its main points below.

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. 80% of the world’s fossil fuels must stay unburnt to meet our government’s own climate targets. Failure to meet this target would be nothing short of a global catastrophe, constituting a grave danger to public health, wellbeing and security on this planet . This message is not new, now repeated by such global institutions as the World Bank and the International Energy agency.

Acting to recognise this fact would demonstrate great leadership and would be in the ANU’s interests. As the prospect of mitigating carbon emissions on a global scale increases to meet the “carbon budget”, or the amount of fossil fuels that can be burnt to keep temperature changes below 2°C, fossil fuel assets risk being significantly devalued. This presents a financial risk that renders investment in such industries irresponsible.

The ANU’s substantial investments in coal, oil and gas also undermine its reputation and commitments to leadership on sustainability. Among other threats, this means ANU risks undermining future donations revenue from the environmentally conscious ANU community. Conversely, it stands to gain from positioning itself as a leader on this issue. 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.

We welcome the opportunity to meet with you or any member of the ANU administration as soon as possible to discuss this matter further. We hope input from the broader community will facilitate an ongoing conversation about how the ANU can extend its leadership as a socially responsible role model on sustainability.

See the full correspondence here.

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