Otago University Council votes to divest from fossil fuels

The Otago University Council has voted in favour of committing to divest from fossil fuels within its investment portfolio. The university downplayed the significance of the decision, assuring everyone affiliated with the university that they have “no investments in fossil fuels” whatsoever. The vote also involved a commitment to prevent any future investments in the alcohol, tobacco, or munitions industries. 

A University Spokesperson said: “The University Investment Policy was due for review this year and consequently this week the University Council considered and approved amendments to the Policy. The policy was split, more appropriately, into policy and procedures and the ethical investment statement aligned with that of the University’s Foundation Trust.”

The decision follows a divestment campaign from both senior staff and students from the University. Dr Alex Macmillan from the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, wrote a press release on behalf of the campaign’s other 28 members, that the “Council policy change matches an earlier commitment by the University’s Foundation Trust (responsible for almost all the University’s financial investments) to move all investments out of fossil fuel exploration and extraction. All University investments are now covered by a consistent ethical investment policy.”

Among those 28 staff signatories was Professor Mark Henaghan, Dean of the Law Faculty, Professor Peter Crampton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences & Dean, and Professor Sean Fitzsimons, Head of the Geography Department. Charlie Montague, spokesperson for Fossil Free Otago Uni, said in a press release that, “As students we want to be proud of our degrees. We want them to come from a future-facing institution that aligns with the science and stands on the right side of history. We’re proud that our uni has listened and made the right decision.”

Jarred Griffiths, OUSA Administrative Vice-President, noted that it is “great news that the Otago University Council has voted to make a commitment not to invest in fossil fuels. This result reflects the outcome of our referendum in May this year, where an overwhelming number of students voted to require us to lobby the University to divest from fossil fuels.”

“The fossil fuel industry is harming our climate, and organisations have a moral obligation to not profit from those activities. As a student, I’m proud that our University has the moral fibre to make this important commitment.”

This article first appeared in Issue 23, 2016.
Posted 10:34am Saturday 17th September 2016 by Joe Higham.