The University is still killing our planet

The world is in a climate crisis, and our University is a big part of the problem

Dead Jacaranda

The world is in a climate crisis, the scope of which still escapes the majority of the population. This includes our decision-makers, who continue to invest in fossil fuels and high-emission companies, searching for profit rather than a future for our planet. We analysed USyd’s emissions, from their day-to-day activities, from their power usage, and the equivalent emissions they own through some of the world’s highest polluters.

The Data:

USyd has to report its emissions data each year. This includes ‘scope 1’ emissions, which is anything directly released into the environment by USyd, as well as ‘scope 2’, which accounts for the emissions involved in USyd’s energy use. We combined this emission data, along with USyd’s stakeholdings in the three of Australia’s top ten polluters that they invest and three from the world’s top 100 to calculate USyd’s total emissions. Own the company, own the emissions, we figure.

1. USyd produces more CO2 equivalent per capita per year than nation states

It may seem like hyperbole, but it’s also startling: USyd’s emissions, per student, are comparable on a national scale. USyd releases more CO2 equivalent per capita than the United Kingdom and Austria.

timeline usyd

2. USyd invests in the top domestic and international polluters

The University invests in three oil and gas companies which were listed in Australia’s top ten polluters (2016-2017): AGL Energy, Origin Energy, and Woodside Energy. Our Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson, who sits on the University’s highest organising body, the Senate, is a non-executive director of AGL Energy.

The University also invests in multinational mining corporation BHP Billiton, leading mining group Rio Tinto, and China’s third-largest national oil company, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). These three companies were listed in the world’s top 100 polluters over the past twenty years—the Guardian recently published a report that found 71% of all global emissions are caused by these 100 companies.


3. USyd trades profitable investments for high emissions

USyd’s investment portfolio is massive, and so their equivalent emissions are far higher than what we can confirm numerically.

USyd mandates that their portfolio’s emissions must be kept low for environmental reasons: 20 per cent below a composite benchmark of all the markets they invest in. Not surprisingly, they achieve their own metric, just scraping under the 20 per cent benchmark.

In fact, as their 2017 data shows, they are far below the benchmarks in both Australian and International markets. However, it appears that the University uses these low emissions locally to balance out their investment in high-polluting emerging markets, and their total responsibility is likely far higher.

usyd emission1s