Part 4: University leadership – fossil fuel divestments

To recap, we have already published three blog posts of our University leadership series. Part 1 showed the ambitious renewable energy and carbon-neutral commitments of leading universities across Australia, Part 2 highlighted universities with Green Star certified buildings, and Part 3 detailed universities’ commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs.

This is Part 4 of our tertiary education sector blog series where we look at the role of universities in fossil fuel divestments. We briefly discussed this previously in our blog post in 2017 which highlighted a number of universities who have committed to partially or fully divest from fossil fuels.

The movement to divest from the fossil fuel industry has grown rapidly in recent years and commitments have been made by many organisations, including local councils, charitable trusts, super funds and the ACT Government. Universities have been a central focus of the campaign with students urging their administrations to turn endowment investments in the fossil fuel industry into investments in clean energy and communities most impacted by climate change.

What is fossil fuel divestment?

According to Wikipedia, fossil fuel divestment is an attempt to reduce climate change by exerting social, political, and economic pressure for the institutional divestment of assets including stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments connected to companies involved in extracting fossil fuels.

Australian Ethical reports that, in 2019, the fossil fuel divestment movement is making it clear to companies who extract coal, oil or gas from the ground that they do so without a social licence. The release of harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere via the burning of these fossil fuels is threatening to destabilise life on this planet.

In Australia, fossil fuel divestment is being led by Universities and Local Councils as part of the global fossil fuel divestment campaign launched by 350.org in 2011.

Universities with fossil fuel divestment commitments

The following table shows universities that have made fossil fuel divestment commitments.

NoStateUniversityAcronymFossil fuel divestment commitments
1ACTAustralian National UniversityANUPartially divest by targeting coal
2NSWUniversity of NewcastleNEWCASTLE“We no longer directly invest in fossil fuel companies and we have integrated Mercer’s ESG ratings across the University’s investments.”
3NSWUniversity of New South WalesUNSWSignificantly reducing their investment in fossil fuels
4NSWUniversity of SydneyUSYDDivestment from many of Australia's largest 200 oil and gas companies
5QLDQueensland University of TechnologyQUT“No fossil fuel direct investments” and “no fossil fuel investments of material significance”
6VICLa Trobe UniversityLATROBEFully divest from fossil-fuel related company investments over the next five years
7VICMonash UniversityMONASHPartially divest by targeting coal
8VICSwinburne University of TechnologySWINBURNE"Divest from companies that earn significant revenues from fossil fuel extraction or coal power generation"
9VICUniversity of MelbourneUNIMELBDivest from companies that do not meet the requirements of a to-be-developed “sustainable investment framework for managing material climate change risk”, by 2021

100% Renewables are experts in helping organisations develop their climate change strategies and action plans, and supporting the implementation and achievement of ambitious targets. If you need help to develop your Climate Change Strategy, please contact Barbara or Patrick.

Feel free to use an excerpt of this blog on your own site, newsletter, blog, etc. Just send us a copy or link and include the following text at the end of the excerpt: “This content is reprinted from 100% Renewables Pty Ltd’s blog.