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Fossil Free USYD strike small victory on investment portfolio battleground

Joshua Dabelstein reports on the University’s new divestment plan.

fossil-free-sign-at-USYD-photo-from-Fossil-Free-USYD-facebook-page-e1417748875636

The University of Sydney announced today that it has plans to lower the carbon footprint of its investment portfolio over the next three years.

“We have set ourselves a goal to achieve a carbon footprint in three years that is 20 percent lower than the average weighted emission rate of the markets that the University invests in,” stated Sarah Watts, vice-principal of University operations in an email to students.

The University is taking a whole-of-portfolio approach. This means that rather than divesting directly from fossil fuels, it has set a target to have an investment portfolio 20 percent less carbon intensive than the market average in three years.

“This strategy reflects the strength of our community’s commitment to taking meaningful action on climate change,” says the email.

“Sydney University has taken a great step forward,” said Fossil Free USYD spokesperson Clodagh Schofield. “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 a 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.” she said.

Schofield adds, “the University might have learned from media response to ANU’s announcement, which explains why they’ve used this strategy.” ANU’s decision last year to divest seven resource companies– Santos, Oil Search, Iluka Resources, Sandfire, Sirius, Newcrest and Independence Group– attracted outrage from the affected companies, claiming that the move was tokenistic and unfair.

This move comes after significant campaigning from the student-run organisation Fossil Free USYD. Last semester, Fossil Free called for a referendum that saw students vote 80 percent in favour of divesting fossil fuels.

Find out more abut Fossil Free USYD via their website: http://fossilfreeusyd.org/news/