Australian National University (ANU) is the first university in Australia to divest from fossil fuels, gaining overwhelming public support but being subject to criticism from the country’s energy industry and government.
The university’s council said that it will be divesting a total of $16 million (£8.6m) from several companies after a review of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria.
The companies that will be affected include Iluka Resources, Independence Group, Newcrest Mining, Sandfire Resources, Oil Search, Santos and Sirius Resources.
These companies accounted for approximately 1% of the university’s investment holdings.
More and more universities across the world are divesting from fossil fuels as they pose a serious threat to the environment and are thought to play an big role in climate change. They are also considered to be somewhat risky when more climate policies are made.
Industry groups and ministers and members of the coalition government have attacked the university for its decision, saying it is “very strange”, “reckless”, “a disgrace”, “narrow-minded and irresponsible”.
Ian Young, ANU’s vice chancellor Professor, said that the ANU needed to invest in a more diversified energy portfolio as fossil fuels will be left out of the equation in the upcoming decades.
On a comment piece on the Age, Young said:
“There has been growing sentiment from our community to not just get a good financial return from our investments but also to invest in companies which would have activities consistent with the goals of the university, and do not manifestly cause social harm.
“Although the ANU has been attacked for it decision, we are simply part of a much bigger debate about carbon and carbon pricing.”
“I would suggest they’re removed from the reality of what is helping to drive the Australian economy and create more employment. Sometimes the view looks different from the lofty rooms of a university”, he said.
Jamie Briggs, assistant infrastructure minister, commented on ANU’s decision:
“This seems to be taking green activism to a new level where it is damaging Australian companies and potentially job creation in the country.”