In 2013, the Fossil Free MU Team put together an open letter to the University requesting that they divest from fossil fuels. We sought signatures from academics, clubs and societies and key unions connected to the University. The open letter, with over 40 signatories, was delivered to Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis and other University Council members with a Christmas card in December 2013.
Please read below for the letter text and details of signatories.
An open letter to the University of Melbourne from members of its community:
In full awareness of the urgent need to act on climate change, we, the undersigned, call on the University to:
- Investigate and disclose its investments in companies whose primary business is the exploration, extraction, processing and transportation of fossil fuels;
- Stop any new investments in these companies;
- Develop a plan to end its investments in the fossil fuel sector within 5 years, with ongoing transparency of its investments.
Climate change is not simply an economic and environmental problem, but an issue of social justice, intergenerational equity, and the viability of future human endeavours. As members of the community of students, staff and alumni of the University of Melbourne, we believe that it is our moral responsibility to show leadership in combating the global threat of climate change in order to ensure a liveable future for ourselves and all species, and for generations to come.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank all warn of a four degree Celsius rise in average global temperatures by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at their current rate. Recent experience of weather extremes and natural disasters here and across the world is only the beginning of a new and more volatile climate regime.
Despite its small population, Australia is a major contributor to the problem of climate change. It is the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases globally and among the world’s 20 top aggregate emitters based on its domestic emissions alone. Australia is also the world’s second largest exporter of coal and, if the emissions embodied in its coal exports are taken into account, Australia is the world’s sixth largest direct and indirect emitter of carbon dioxide.
In order to be part of the solution to the threat of global warming, we must diminish our domestic reliance on fossil fuels and replace them with clean, renewable sources of energy. We must also wind back our coal exports. By divesting from its financial involvement in fossil fuel production and export, the University of Melbourne will send a strong leadership message to the wider community that the time of fossil fuel reliance must come to an end.
In addition to the moral imperative for fossil fuel divestment, there are strong financial reasons for such a move. Financial analysts and international organisations such as the World Bank recognise that fossil fuel assets now bear very real and growing financial risks. Climate policies intended to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius coupled with increasingly affordable renewable energy technologies will mean that our reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source will diminish rapidly in the future. Fossil fuel resources and associated technologies face a recognised risk of becoming stranded assets. Moving away from fossil fuels is not only an ethical choice but also a smart business move.
The University has pledged to lead by example and to take urgent action in the face of fundamental environmental problems (Talloires Declaration, 1990; Universitas 21, 2009). The University is publicly committed to reducing emissions and reaching carbon neutrality by 2030 (Growing Esteem, 2010). Honouring these commitments is central to maintaining the University’s integrity and standing in the community as a trustworthy institution.
We request that the University of Melbourne shows courage and acts as a progressive leader on the Australian and global stage in the area of climate change abatement. We ask that the University divests its financial assets that contribute directly to the success of fossil fuel companies. By doing so, the University of Melbourne would be joining a growing number of progressive universities and liberal arts colleges in North America that have already committed to becoming fossil free.
Professors and Associate Professors
Grant Blashki, Associate Professor Nossal Institute for Global Health, Chair of Environmental Working Party of World Organisation of Family Doctors
David Story, Professor and Chair of Anaesthesia, Head of Anaesthesia, Perioperative and Pain Medicine Unit
Robyn Eckersley, Professor and Head of Political Science in the School of Social and Political Sciences
Brendan Gleeson, Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, Professor of Urban Planning
John Wiseman, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute
Peter Singer, Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University
David Karoly, lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Professor School of Earth Sciences, member of the board of the Climate Change Authority
Rachel Webster, Vice-President of the Academic Board, Professor School of Phsyics
Raoul Mulder, Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Zoology
Phil Batterham, Professor Department of Genetics
Lee Godden, Environmental Law Director of Studies, Director of the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law (CREEL), Melbourne Law School
Rodney Keenan, Head of Department of Resource Management and Geography, Professor Forest and Ecosystem Science
Stefan Arndt, Director of Burnley Campus, Associate Professor Forest and Ecosystem Science
Ruth Fincher, President of the Academic Board, Professor Department of Resource Management and Geography
Peter Christoff, Associate Professor Department of Resource Management and Geography, visiting Fellow at the Monash Sustainability Institute, member of the board of the Australian Conservation Foundation
Ruth Beilin, Associate Professor Department of Resource Management and Geography
Ken Gelder, Professor and Head of English and Theatre Studies, Co-director of the Australian Centre
Joy Damousi, Professor of History in School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
Alfredo Martinez-Exposito, Head of School of Languages and Linguistics, Professor of Spanish and Latin American Studies
Field Rickards, Dean of Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Professor of Education of the Hearing Impaired
Christopher Ryan, Director of the Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab
Adam Bumpus, Lecturer Department of Resource Management and Geography, lead researcher and manager of the international Carbon Governance Project
Aaron Martin, Lecturer School of Social and Political Sciences
Amanda Johnson, Lecturer School of Cultural and Communication
David Nolan, Senior Lecturer School of Cultural and Communication
Arnaud Gallois, Academic Coordinator Office for Environmental Programs
Kara Hadgraft, President of the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU), on behalf of UMSU Students’ Council
Stephen Smith, Secretary of UMSU, on behalf of UMSU Students’ Council
Rob Novacco, Member of Graduate Student Association Executive Council
MU Greens on Campus
Postgraduate Environment Network
National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU)
Mariann Fee, CEO of University of Melbourne Commercial Ltd.