In the lead-up to the first global divestment day on February 14, the University of Sydney announced it will reduce the carbon footprint of its investments by 20% within three years by divesting from heavy polluters.
But it has shied away from divesting from fossil fuels altogether.
The decision follows a sustained student-led campaign, with support from Greenpeace, that has been urging the university to completely divest its investments in fossil fuels.
Responding to the announcement, Greenpeace said: “We know that to avoid the worst effects of dangerous climate change we must keep 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Yet, based on the details announced so far, the University of Sydney’s policy could still allow for investments in dirty coal mining companies like Whitehaven Coal.”
Fossil Free USYD spokesperson Clodagh Schofield said: “Sydney University has taken a great step forward. 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 standard industry wide.
“However, Sydney University should aim higher than standard. 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.”
Actions were held around Australia to campaign for other institutions to divest from fossil fuels.
On February 12, 40 students protested outside the Commonwealth Bank branch at the Australian National University in Canberra.
The students targeted the bank because they say the bank is one of largest financiers in fossil fuels in Australia and is considered one of the most likely banks to fund Queensland’s Abbot Point coal port.
In the past two years, more than 180 institutions representing $US50 billion in assets have committed to divest. There are now more than 500 active divestment campaigns under way at universities, cities, churches, banks and other institutions.