10th August, Sydney: The University of NSW Council needs to walk the talk on its climate change investment strategies newly elected council members said today ahead of the council’s meeting next week.
The UNSW Council was forced to revise its investment policy in 2016 following sustained pressure from the campus community, however students claim this has not translated into any meaningful change, and the student-led ‘Fossil Free UNSW’ campaign continues to demand divestment from fossil fuel companies.
Newly elected student members of the UNSW Council Ike Schwartz and Nicholas Gurieff said they were concerned about the environmental performance of UNSW’s investments, and together with staff, they intend to ensure the university provides a model for social responsibility in all aspects of its operation.
They will be asking the UNSW Council at Monday’s meeting to ensure its investments are moved to low carbon indicies, that they exclude new thermal coal, tar sands, and limit fossil fuel exposure to 10% below the relevant index benchmark (S&P/ASX 200 in Australia).
“The world is already starting to feel the effects of climate change through droughts, floods and wildfires. As a medical student I’m acutely aware of the human toll from inaction on this issue, and I’m concerned UNSW isn’t doing everything it can”, said Ike Schwartz, the elected undergraduate student.
Students have been campaigning since 2012 to power the campus with renewable energy, and earlier this year UNSW became the first university in the world to sign an agreement to supply 100% of its electricity with solar power.
This was welcomed by the community, but students and staff want the same thinking applied to UNSW’s investments.
“UNSW research shows us the scale of the challenges we face, but also provides real solutions, such as our world-leading solar power technology. We need to ensure the institution itself is also driving positive change by putting its money where its mouth is,” said Nicholas Gurieff, the elected postgraduate student.
Polling has shown overwhelming support from the student body, with 78% voting in favour of divestment. Staff backed up students, signing an open letter expressing their concerns. Frustration with inaction from UNSW leadership led students to occupy Council chambers in 2016, and blockade entrances to the Chancellery building on campus in 2017.
“Younger generations are going to bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change, so it’s inspiring to see students leading the charge for a more sustainable for future. Staff have to support them in this, and I will continue to voice my support on Council”, said Aaron Magner, the re-elected non-academic staff member.