Last week the University Council agreed to commence divestment of stocks in seven companies following an independent review of ANU domestic equities.
The review, commissioned as part of our Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Policy and undertaken by CAER (Centre for Australian Ethical Research), provided Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Ratings on ANU-held domestic stocks.
The stocks to be divested represent around 5.1 per cent of the University’s Australian equity holdings and approximately 1 per cent of its total investment holdings.
I have repeatedly said climate change is the most serious issue ever to have faced humanity.
As well as being Vice-Chancellor of ANU, I am also an active researcher. Climate and changes to climate figure heavily in my research into physical oceanography, global ocean climate and extreme meteorological events.
We need to move from a carbon economy and my belief is that this will only happen when we have alternative sources of energy which are competitive with fossil fuels.
As such, new energies like solar, wind and even nuclear will be key, as will new sources yet to be developed. This is the main game. We, as a society and as a university, must be focused on these issues. This is why, for instance, I have made key strategic appointments to enhance our solar energy research.
I have a strong belief that the University’s investment strategy should be aligned with these goals.
The divestment debate is nuanced. Some in the divestment lobby want ANU to divest of any company which has any interest in fossil fuels, irrespective of the full portfolio of the company. Others, on the other side of the fence, say we should not divest of any company operating legally in Australia.
However, social harm and legitimate legal operation are not mutually exclusive: society accepts that some products cause harm but tolerates their use for various reasons.
I explained in an interview on Lateline, the University Council has taken what I believe to be a measured approach that is mindful of both our fiduciary duty and the views of our community of staff, students and alumni.
The ANU community should continue to be focused on the real, pressing and vitally important issue of how we develop the technologies for the future. As well as divestment there should also be a debate about investment in alternative energy. We have one of Australia’s leading solar groups and the only nuclear research capability in the country. Both are under enormous funding threats.
As Australia’s national university we have an important role to play in this debate and I welcome your views.