The University of New South Wales has announced it will divest from fossil fuels by 2025, as part of its net zero emissions goal and in line with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
Environmental group 350.org said the commitment was delivered off the back of six years of student-led campaigning UNSW, and as the university – a world leader in solar PV research and development – shifts to zero carbon electricity by the end of this year.
The divestment, which will amount to around $16.2 million in fossil fuel backed assets, will include direct ownership and any commingled funds, including public equities and corporate bonds, of companies whose primary business is the ownership and exploitation of fossil fuels.
“UNSW has a proud history of being at the forefront of climate science and renewable energy and there is a clear expectation from our community that we forge a leadership role on climate change,” said UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Jacobs.
“Our divestment decision is a clear statement of UNSW’s responsible investment intent and the continuation of our long and impressive journey on climate action – it is worth remembering that more than 30 years ago, the solar cell technology which powers 50% of solar panels around the world was developed right here at UNSW.”
“The University’s environmental sustainability initiatives extend to the design of all new buildings at UNSW, energy, water and waste management on campus, and working to eliminate single-use plastics in food service,” he said.
“We owe it to UNSW’s pioneering researchers to carry on their fine legacy.”
One of those pioneering researchers is Australia’s “father of PV,” UNSW Scientia Professor Martin Green, who in 2018 won the Global Energy Prize to become the first Australian to win the $820,000 gong.
Another is Zhengrong Shi, who completed his doctorate at the UNSW under Professor Green, and went on start one of the world’s first highly successful global solar manufacturers in Suntech – and who has recently returned to the Australian solar market with his new company, SunMan.
Mirima Goldman, the convenor of Fossil Free UNSW, said that while the fossil-free commitment from the university was welcomed, it was “astounding that it took six long years” of student and staff campaigning to get there.
“UNSW is the first domino to fall in the state of NSW. Fossil Free UNSW hope that this announcement will encourage other universities such as University of Sydney, UTS to follow suit,” Goldman said.
“Fossil Free UNSW will not, however, rest on our laurels. We must ensure UNSW stays accountable to this commitment and stays true to its word. But for now, we can celebrate the power of ordinary people coming together and demanding climate action.”