Author Archives: tomswann

New ANU VC must turn energy vision into investment leadership – Press Release

Appointment of Brian Schmidt as the new ANU Vice-Chancellor is an opportunity for ANU to show real leadership on Australia’s move away from fossil fuels, say students behind the campaign to divest the rest of ANU’s fossil fuel investments.

Claire Gardner, spokesperson for Fossil Free ANU, said “Brian Schmidt understands how serious the carbon problem is getting, for the planet and for Australia’s economic future. He sees Australia’s future is in clean energy.” [Quotes below]

“If ANU is going to lead Australia through these debates, Brian must get ready to take a principled stand on these issues at the ANU. That includes our fossil fuel investments.”

“How can ANU lead the energy transition when it stays invested in the industries trying to hold us in the past?”

Last year the ANU divested from two fossil fuel companies, but held on to major oil and coal producers. The global divestment movement is growing rapidly – Oxford, Stanford, Edinburgh have all divested coal, along with around 30 other unis. MIT may soon join them.

“To be an elite university, ANU must take a principled stand on fossil fuels, or risk getting left behind.”

“We congratulate Brian Schmidt on his new position. It is great to see a leader appointed from within the ANU community. That community will expect Mr Schmidt to take further steps towards making ANU a leading university on this issue.”

“Schmidt says that keeping global warming below 2 degrees means “citizens of the world need to demand it”. Citizens of his own university will continue to call for leadership until ANU has divested from the fossil fuels that are causing this warming and holding back the transition. Fossil Free ANU gladly welcomes any dialogue with Mr Schmidt about how the university may best lead Australia towards a clean energy and safe climate future.”


“Climate change is…the great challenge for humanity over the next 100 years”.

“I see this as an issue where the beginnings of the problems will come towards the end of my life. … As for my grandkids, who don’t exist yet, I really do fear for them and humanity if we don’t tackle this.”

“Yes we do have large reservoirs of coal, which are probably not going to be able to be used. I fully expect that the demand for Australia’s coal reserves will drop off dramatically in the next 20 years.”

“Australians should be looking to help secure our own future. … If you look at our strategic advantage, one might argue we have even more advantages in a renewable energy economy than in a fossil fuel one.”



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How will you vote?

Dear Friends,

By the end of the year, ANU Council has a choice to make. Are they ready to lead on climate change and stop investing in fossil fuels?

While Council deliberates, this week it’s time for ANU students to make their choice. In the first ANUSA referendum on record, the ballot paper will ask students this question:

“Should ANU stop investing in fossil fuels, such as coal and coal seam gas, which are the main causes of climate change and associated social injury?”

Join us by pledging to Vote YES!

  • WHAT: ANUSA fossil fuel referendum, part of the election
  • WHERE: Union Court
  • WHEN: This week, 10-4:30, Mon-Thurs 24-28 Aug
  • (Law School on Wednesday morning)

Whatever you think about student politics, in the referendum you can vote for something big: ANU’s leadership on your future and the future of this planet. What’s more, we have the support of every presidential candidate and their tickets.

Fling, Connect, Fetch and Student House Party — and BOB BROWN! – all say Vote YES!
Will you?

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A Student Referendum on a Fossil Free ANU!

Short Version

“Should ANU stop investing in fossil fuels which drive dangerous climate change?”

Ian Young is still unsure if ANU is ready for real climate leadership — so lets ask ANU’s biggest stakeholders: the students!

How? A referendum at the ANUSA elections! To do that, we need your support:
1) Sign the petition — We will need your signatures on paper to show we have the student support to call a referendum.
2) Come to the ANUSA Meeting at 12pm NEXT WED in Union Court and vote for the motion. (There will be free food)
 3) Vote YES in the referendum at the elections 25-29 August!

Boring Long Version

Opportunity: ANU is home to a nation-leading student campaign calling for ANU to stop investing in the fossil fuels that are wrecking out climate. Divesting is a powerful way to withdraw political support for damaging industries. And it’s got big name support – 13 universities have already divested, including Stanford, as well as many cities, religious groups, and foundations, such as the World Council of Churches and the British Medical Association. 
After a long fight, Ian Young and the ANU administration will be deliberating over the coming months whether ANU will finally show leadership and divest from damaging fossil fuels, or whether it will continue to invest in an industry that is causing dangerous climate change.  As they make this final decision, now is the time to show them the strong support for being first in Australia to go fossil free. 
Problem: The best way to give everyone a say is by calling a referendum. When students go to vote at the ANUSA elections, they should also vote on whether ANU should divest from fossil fuels. The problem is, ANUSA’s constitution mentions referenda but it doesn’t say how to call one. So we need your help.
Step 1. To fix this, we need to pass a motion at the upcoming ANUSA OGM, 12pm in Union Court, Wednesday, amending the election regulations to allow us to call a referendum to be called. We’ve replicated the text from Melbourne University’s constitution which is consistent across many student association constitutions in Australia. ANUSA appears to be the exception here, rather than the rule, so our amendment will really just bring our constitution into line. 
To get the amendment to stick, we need you to turn up, preferably with friends, to vote for it. There will be free food and you’ll also learn about what’s going on around campus.
Step 2. The amendment will allow a referendum to be called by a petition of 1% of students. That’s why we asked you to sign the petition.
Step 3. Don’t vote for us, vote for your future — in the ANUSA elections, vote YES for a Fossil Free ANU!

Motion for ANUSA OGM

Motion to amend Electoral Regulations to allow a referendum.

1) Noting ANUSA members wish to hold a student referendum on the issue of fossil fuel divestment at ANU, to be held at the same time as the 2014 General ANUSA election;

2) Noting that ANUSA’s constitution contains provisions about conducting a referendum of its members, but does not contain provisions for calling a referendum;

3) That ANUSA amend the “Electoral Regulations” in the “ANUSA Constitution and Regulations” to insert at the end of the regulation, a new subsection 6.7 Calling of Referenda, to read:

6.7 Calling of Referenda

6.7.1 The General Secretary must call a Referendum if:

(a) the Students’ Representative Council directs that one be held by a vote approved by more than half of all its voting Representatives; or

(b) at least one per cent of members of the Association request in writing or by email that one be held. This petition must include the name, student identification number and signature of each member so signing it. Each page of the petition of initiation shall include the full text of the referendum motion.

6.7.2 The Secretary must issue the notice for a referendum at least five academic days before the referendum is held. The notice must specify the time, date and venue of the referendum and must be displayed on:

a) The front door of the Association offices;

b) Notice boards within the union building; and

c) The website of the Association.

6.7.3 The date notified for the commencement of a Referendum must not be later than the twenty-first day after the date on which the direction is made or the required number of requests has been received by the Secretary.

4) After the first time a referendum is called under this provision, ANUSA will conduct a review of referenda procedure.

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ANU buys ethical investment information, but can’t outsource fossil fuel ethics


Students campaigning against ANU’s fossil fuel investments welcome its new contract for information from ethical investment experts CAER, announced today, but warn ANU cannot outsource its ethics and must choose to lead.

Tom Swann, Master of Climate Change student and spokesperson for Fossil Free ANU, says “We welcome ANU choosing CAER as a provider of ethical investment information. But we are still yet to see what information they are actually buying and what ANU will do with it.”

“Even the IMF is now saying we should be heavily taxing coal to internalise the damage it inflicts. That sets a baseline for the kind of information we expect and we will be doing our own research to make sure Council gets the full picture.”

“At the end of the day, the real test of leadership is what ANU does with this information.”

“ANU can’t outsource their ethics. They will have to choose to be leaders.

“We know ANU wants to look like a leader — they have managed to get their new consultants to say they are “leading” three times in one sentence!”

“But you can’t pay for leadership. You have to earn it.”

“If ANU is honest with themselves and the ANU community, they will confront the damage done by fossil fuels and divest.”

Recent victories in the fossil fuel divestment movement include the World Council of Churches, representing 500m Christians, Stanford University, and UniSuper, the superannuation fund for Australian university employees.  

The Fossil Free ANU campaign now has 1500 signatures of support from staff, students and alumni. This semester it will be gathering academic support and running a student referendum, in the lead up the Council decision in November.

Fossil Free ANU was one of the first fossil fuel divestment campaigns in the world and the first in Australia. There are now campus divestment campaigns on most Australian universities and hundreds worldwide.

ANU/ CAER press release:

Tom Swann 0412 166 490


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Dear Gareth Evans: Climate calls for Leadership

Dear ANU Chancellor Gareth Evans

cc: Vice Chancellor Prof. Ian Young

bcc: 1500+ who want ANU to be a leader on climate change.

Last week, I met with VC Prof Ian Young to discuss climate change and ANU’s investments in fossil fuels. He said much in confidence, but he urged me to repeat the following.

“Climate change is the greatest challenge facing humanity. I worry about about our ability to meet that challenge. There will be a time when we no longer use fossil fuels. The question is how fast we move.”

I am sure you agree with the Vice Chancellor. That is why it is concerning to find that at the three day ‘Crawford Australian Leadership Forum’ you are hosting at ANU next week, climate change is not on the agenda.

You can put it there in your opening speech.

At this Leadership Forum, ANU has gathered an impressive range of powerful people: politicians, business people, public servants, academics. They will discuss the “geopolitical and economic issues of most immediate contemporary significance” that set “the agenda needing to be addressed by the Australian Government.”

Yet ‘climate change’, ‘carbon’ or even the ‘environment’ do not feature even once. What’s more, in the session on “Energy”, three representatives from fossil fuel companies will speak about boosting fossil fuel exports!

The “biggest challenge facing humanity” ought to be front and centre. Chancellor, you can use your opening speech to call for leadership on climate change and keeping most fossil fuels in the ground. Will you?

ANU has a responsibility to protect the future wellbeing of its students, not to mention its reputation, by leading on climate change. A safe climate means keeping most fossil fuels in the ground and moving quickly to clean energy.

I understand ANU staff are currently considering ANU’s responsible investment policy. They are trying to work out if unstoppable climate change from fossil fuels constitutes “substantial social injury”.

1500 in the ANU community have called for ANU to divest from fossil fuels. Our movement continues to grow. Stanford has now said it will divest from coal, after you said it was the ‘gold standard’ in this area. Just today, the British Medical Association announced it would divest, and reinvest in renewables.

While ANU considers divestment, it should not be moving backwards. It should be speaking truth to power.  I call on you to show leadership at the Leadership Forum and put climate change, clean energy and unburnable carbon on the agenda.


Tom Swann

Masters of Climate Change

Fossil Free ANU



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Open Letter For a Fossil Free ANU

As members of the ANU community, we call on the ANU to end its investments in coal, gas and oil.

Runaway climate change risks enduring harm on a vast scale, threatening public health, security and economic well-being. This is now the conservative opinion of all global authorities.

Scientists have shown preventing runaway climate change means most of the world’s oil, gas, and coal reserves must stay in the ground — yet these industries continue to expand.

We cannot go forward on climate change until we stop going backwards. As a respected leader on climate change research and teaching, ANU should not invest in the industries that cause the problem and which have fought to delay the transition we need.

ANU should join Universities, cities and religious groups around the world, and lead the fight against climate change here in Australia, by stopping new investments in fossil fuels and developing a plan to create a fossil free investment portfolio.


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