Two Years Too Late for Fossil Fuel Divestment at Melbourne
This afternoon, dozens of University of Melbourne students and staff gathered under the University’s Administration Building to speak out against Melbourne’s continued investment in fossil fuels. This comes after over two years of student campaigning, an effort which has gained the support of over 4000 students, staff, and alumni.
Students and staff gathered at the base of the University’s Administration Building and took turns presenting their arguments for why the University should divest. These arguments were amplified through the use of a “human mic”, with the crowd loudly repeating each of the speaker’s sentences.
“In order to stay below 2 degrees of warming, we need to keep at least 80% of current fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Fossil fuel companies not only intend to burn all of their reserves, but they are pouring millions of dollars into searching for new reserves every day,” said Fossil Free MU spokesperson and student Anisa Rogers.
“On top of this, these companies are doing everything in their power to stop action on climate change. The University of Melbourne has divested from rogue industries in the past, why not fossil fuels?” asked Miss Rogers.
Fossil Free MU’s campaign has been running for over two years, during which time rallies, forums, stunts, a referendum and meetings with university officials have yet to produce a genuine commitment regarding fossil fuel divestment by the University.
In March last year, Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis publicly stated in an open letter published in The Australian that the University would not divest its endowment. 1.5 years on, and after continuous pressure from students, the University has returned to a more neutral position. Chief Financial Officer Allan Tait recently indicated that divestment is being considered as part of the University’s new “Charter of Sustainability”.
“In the last two years I’ve watched Fossil Free MU grow from a few students with a passion for climate change into a highly organised, well-informed, and incredibly motivated group of environmental justice activists,” said Associate Professor and lecturer in Climate Politics and Policy Dr Peter Christoff. “For the same two years, I’ve seen the University grow increasingly anxious about being the thought-leader that it portrays itself to be.”
“With the Paris Summit only two months away, and with Australian politics suffering from a coal haze-induced myopia, Universities must lead the way on climate leadership and policy. There will never be a better time than now for the University to divest its endowment from fossil fuels,” Dr Christoff finished.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change annual Conference of Parties will confer in Paris in late November/early December this year. Paris is expected to be the most promising UNFCCC conference in recent years and students hope that their University can play a role in pressuring the federal government to show more leadership on this issue. Australia’s emissions target for the conference, a 5 % reduction on 2000 emissions levels by 2020, is amongst the lowest targets of developed nations worldwide.