Nick Hanafin is a geography student at the University of Canterbury, and he has been involved with the “University of Canterbury: divest from fossil fuels” – campaign from its beginning in April this year. We talked to him about divestment and his campaign.
What is fossil fuel divestment? Fossil fuel divestment is the policy of selling investments in the fossil fuel industry for ethical reasons. Divestment from fossil fuels and increasing investment in renewable energy has become an important part of the fight against climate change. Divestment was instrumental in the downfall of the South African Apartheid regime, and it is now being used to take on the fossil fuel industry. It is widely accepted that to restore a stable climate system, 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in the earth, yet fossil fuel companies are continuing to seek and develop new resources.
What is it so important? Divestment is important because unlike international policy efforts, which have made no difference to the continuing rapid increase of greenhouse gases, divestment can tackle the issue at the source by taking exploration funding out of this reckless industry.
What is the situation at UC re: divestment? The University of Canterbury has a scholarship trust fund of about $100 million invested in international share markets, which is managed by financial institutions on UCs behalf, and they are instructed to spread this evenly across the market. As such, this fund includes a significant proportion of fossil fuel industry investment.
Stanford University in California is one of the most prestigious universities to divest from fossil fuel companies so far. When they divested a year ago, they were producing heating and electricity from fossil fuels. Recently Stanford upgraded their facilities, achieving a large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
UC has recently joined the Carbon Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme. This mechanism could encourage a transition from our coal reliance, however our group’s focus in on our fossil fuel industry investments, not on our local energy usage.
How important is it for UC students to speak up about divestment? What can they do to show their support? Student and staff support is crucial to the campaign, simply to encourage the administration to make the right decisions. Signing the petition is the first step: campaigns.gofossilfree.org/p/can Or visit our Facebook page: “Canterbury Uni Fossil Free”, like us and share the petition (up top) or the group with your friends. Message us if you would like to join the campaign team for some on-campus fun!
Want to know more about the Sustainability Strategy at UC? Check here.