The University of Tasmania is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to fighting climate change. By the end of 2021 the University will no longer be associated with investment funds with direct exposure to fossil fuels.
Divestment means removing support for investment funds with direct interest in fossil fuels and is an integral step in the University’s commitment to leading the sector in supporting the creation of a zero-carbon economy.
Having made this commitment in late 2020, the University repositioned $49 million of investments within 12 months, re-investing that money into funds with investment strategies aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, funds that accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon future.
“If you look at other universities around Australia and around the world, they are making commitments to divest from these funds by 2030 or something similar, when those funds would be less profitable anyway,” says Nicky van Dijk, a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania and convenor of Fossil Free UTAS.
“But it is much more impressive when a university resolves to make that change immediately. And by doing this, the University is helping to safeguard the future of its students and the world they will live in.”
Why do we have investment funds?
Like most universities, the University of Tasmania invests in various funds as a key source of revenue and financial stability. But historically many of the biggest investment funds have had links to fossil fuels, through companies that either produce or consume them.
By divesting from these funds, the University is directly responsible for diverting millions of dollars away from companies that contribute to global warming, and into more sustainable funds.
The University has committed to applying a negative fossil fuel investment screen to filter out funds that are exposed to fossil fuels, and a positive screen to funds which contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“We are now looking at a world where those people and places which are connected to the old carbon-based economy are vulnerable,” University Vice Chancellor Professor Rufus Black says.
“Those places where people and companies are embracing the emerging low-carbon economies are thriving. We need to be an active part of this transition from the old carbon-based economy to a new zero-carbon economy.”
Listening to students and to scientists
The University of Tasmania has been certified carbon neutral since 2016 and our Strategic Framework for Sustainability outlines our plan for continuing to work towards a more sustainable, climate positive future. And the plan also reflects the views of most young people and students on the topic of sustainability.
- Almost 70% of Australian students believe it’s essential or very important that a university take action to reduce its environmental impact.
- 96% of Gen Z in Australia understand that current climate change is a result of human activity and that sustainability is the top action businesses and organisations should take.
- 89% of current students surveyed in 2020 agreed or strongly agreed with the University’s commitment to being certified carbon neutral.
It also demonstrates our willingness to trust in the findings of our own researchers, who are at the forefront of climate and environmental research.
“Globally, our researchers have for 30 years been at the leading edge of contributing to an ever-greater understanding of the imminent threat we face from climate change and what we need to do about it,” Professor Black says.
“We have arrived at this juncture through the collective wisdom and effort of a great many people. Our staff and students expect us to be sustainability leaders and we are intent on honouring that expectation.”