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We demand that The University of Auckland divests from fossil fuels.

Did you know the The University of Auckland is investing in coal, oil, and gas companies in the face of a global climate emergency?

It’s time for The University of Auckland to show true commitment to sustainability. We are a student-led campaign demanding that Vice-Chancellor Prof. Stuart McCutcheon actively supports divestment from coal, oil, and gas, #ForAllOurFutures.

Fossil Free UoA is a student-led group formed in early 2015, supported by 350 Aotearoa.

We demand the University of Auckland puts its money where its mouth is on social justice, sustainability, and environmental science, by removing its money from the fossil fuel industry.

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1. Context

For two and a half years, Fossil Free UoA has been urging the University of Auckland to divest from fossil fuels. As the critic and conscience of society, universities play a critical role in the public’s perception of our world, and when universities and other institutions speak up en masse, they create a growing social stigma around immoral and unethical business models like that of fossil fuel extraction companies. In 2017, new fossil fuel extraction projects are unjustifiable. Research from Carbon Tracker has found that our existing fossil fuel reserves contain five times the amount of carbon dioxide we can afford to emit in order to limit global temperature rise to 2ºC.

Divestment is a practical and realistic step the University can take to stigmatise fossil fuel extraction companies. At least 731 institutions globally have divested. In New Zealand, these include Victoria University, the University of Otago, and Auckland Council.

Over the past two and a half years, we have corresponded and met with Vice Chancellor Prof. Stuart McCutcheon to lay out in detail the case for divestment. He has continued to oppose it, as explained below. We have taken divestment to two University council meetings, delivering our petition of over 2500 signatures, and asking the Council to vote to support a divestment decision. Council opted not to vote at all.

The final decision to divest rests with the University Foundation and their subsidiary the School of Medicine Foundation. The Foundation is responsible for investing the university’s endowment, of over $100 million. The Foundations have separate jurisdictions to the University but will no doubt consider the views of University Council and the Vice Chancellor in their decision-making. After persistence, we are now in early stages of discussions with the Foundation.


2. Current position of university

Vice Chancellor Prof. Stuart McCutcheon currently opposes fossil fuel divestment.

In a statement provided to Fossil Free UoA, the Vice Chancellor called divestment a “token[…] contribution to environmental sustainability”, citing the university’s various sustainability objectives, among them reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Stigmatising fossil fuel extraction companies, which  continue to put their profit before people and the planet, has real effect. The CEO of Shell  recently stated that the “biggest challenge we have at the moment as a company” is “the fact that societal acceptance of the energy system as we have it is just disappearing”. Further, the University’s own Strategic Plan reminds us that “we cannot plunder the future in order to pay for the present”. This phrase, of course, aptly sums up the behaviour of fossil fuel extraction companies.

The Vice Chancellor also claimed it was “hypocritical” to divest from fossil fuels while we continue to rely on them. The fact is, we continue to rely on them because the fossil fuel industry is dragging its feet on the urgent need to transition to renewable forms of energy. By 2020, Shell will finally have gotten around to investing 1/25 of its total annual spending in renewables.


3. Fossil Fuel Divestment demands

Fossil Free UoA and AUSA, with an endorsement from an additional 22 student organisations, demand that Vice Chancellor Prof. Stuart McCutcheon actively support divestment. Specifically, we demand the following, as extracted from the letter we sent to the Vice-Chancellor on 26 May:

“… [A]cknowledging the separate jurisdictions of the University (including Council) and both Foundations, we ask that you agree to the following two requests:

  1. Issue a public statement in which you acknowledge that divesting from fossil fuels is well-aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Principles for Responsible Investment and that divesting fossil fuels is thus a step that would be strategically prudent for the University Foundation to take.
  2. Ensure an open and transparent dialogue on divestment is maintained until the concerns of all parties have been resolved.”


Last updated: 28 May 2017

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