An Open Letter

22 October 2014

TOTAL: 164 signatures

Academics and Alumni of UNSW to the Vice-Chancellor and University Council

The University of New South Wales continues to invest its endowment in the fossil fuel industry – an industry which continues to resist debate about alternative energy sources and criticises the established science of anthropogenic climate change.

We are already seeing destructive impacts of climate change, and the time to prevent potentially catastrophic scenarios in the future is rapidly running out. If we are to avoid an average increase in global mean temperature of 4˚C, we cannot afford to burn the 2,700 gigatons of carbon that the fossil fuel industry already has access to. If we are serious about limiting the impacts of climate change, society must reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Supporting further expansion of the fossil fuel industry is no longer an option for a progressive society focused on long term sustainability. We believe that as a highly regarded educational and social institution, UNSW can and must take a leading role in the move away from fossil fuel use toward a sustainable and equitable future. The University should commit to the divestment of any direct and externally managed shareholdings from the fossil fuel industry.

Climate science warns of dangerous change and the impacts are real

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the World Bank have warned that in the absence of scaled up action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, global mean warming could be as high as 4˚C above pre-industrial temperatures by the end of this century. Warming on this scale would have significant impacts for many parts of society, including human health, infrastructure, and industry. Indeed, the IPCC’s most recent report has shown that the impacts of climate change are already being felt around the world – affecting both land and oceans. In recent years significant disruptions to crop yields have occurred; heatwaves have caused deaths on an unprecedented scale; and it has become apparent that changing environmental conditions are altering the composition and range of both terrestrial and ocean ecosystems. These and many other impacts are projected to only get worse if global mean temperature is allowed to rise further.

There are alternatives and they are rapidly gaining traction

There was a time when critics of action to address greenhouse gas pollution could happily argue that renewables would never cost effectively deliver the reliable energy our modern economies depend on. That time has passed. UNSW, the AEMO and BZE research have all shown the possibility and benefits of a 100% renewable energy grid in Australia. Power companies in the world’s major industrial economies like Germany are currently expressing regret for their decisions to expand fossil fuel generating capacity, and fear for the proliferation of solar technology which has lead Barclays to recently downgrade the entire US electricity sector.

Researchers at UNSW play a critical role in creating the renewable energy technologies that are rapidly reaching economic parity with, and indeed overtaking on a cost basis, traditional fossil fuel energy sources. We, like many analysts around the world, need to ensure that our commitment to sustainability is not just confined to research but is a core part of our business as a University. We must acknowledge the need for, and accelerating availability of, practical alternatives to old polluting fuels such as coal by shifting our investment funds.

The financial risk in holding to the status quo is considerable

Doing nothing is always an option, but the fossil fuel status quo will not last. The industry is facing the combined pressure of restrictive pollution regulation in response to science, competition from clean technology on cost and the fastest growing stigmatisation campaign in history. Researchers from universities, such as Oxford, and commercial analysts alike are warning of stranded fossil fuel assets and structural investment readjustments. It is no longer a matter of if, but when. The carbon bubble will burst and in this dramatic shift UNSW can prosper on the right side of history, or it can hold to the other and suffer the consequences.

There are already fund managers responsible for portfolios both smaller and significantly larger than UNSW’s who are shifting their assets in response to this reality, in Australia and around the world. Banks and super funds are following the lead of colleges and governments. Index institutions like MSCI and FTSI are helping by creating fossil free indices. They are in the minority for now, but these first movers are demonstrating the smart due diligence called for by the World Bank President. By screening for climate risk they are heeding advice from the likes of Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Mercer, KPMG, the IEA, and The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. UNSW can lead the way in pragmatic screening of its investments for climate risk, both for simple self-interest and for the future of the communities that UNSW is involved in.

Divestment could deliver improved financial results as well as reduce risk

Modelling and investment results have shown similar or improved financial performance by ethical and fossil free funds. Looking only at Australia, “ethical funds that invest in Australian shares outperformed their mainstream counterparts by 3 percentage points” each year between 2002 and 2012 (SMH Money, 2013). Modelling by the Aperio Group showed that a ‘fossil free’ portfolio created by screening out the largest fossil fuel extractors from the ASX 200 “tracked the broad share market very closely, achieving very similar month to month returns to the ASX 200” (The Australia Institute, 2014). Internationally, “analysis of historical data shows that over the past seven years eliminating the fossil fuel sector from a global benchmark index would have actually had a small positive return effect” (IMPAX Asset Management, 2013).

Leadership is required both in research and in responsible management

In May this year, Stanford University committed to divesting its endowment of stock in coal-mining companies, and to considering similar commitments for other fuels. As the worldwide fossil fuel divestment movement continues to gain momentum, other major universities are sure to soon follow suit. We believe that UNSW should be among them.

UNSW is a leader in research; we can also be a leader in sustainability. UNSW’s funds may be held in external portfolios, but we ultimately decide where our endowment is invested and determine the mandate of our fund managers. It is our responsibility to ensure this endowment is invested ethically and sustainably in truth, not only in the wording of our investment policy.

We the undersigned – academics and alumni with knowledge of climate science and renewable energy, business, economics, ethics, health, engineering, society and biodiversity – sign this statement, as an act of conscience and fiscal responsibility, and ask our University to divest its direct and indirect holdings in fossil fuel corporations.

 

Signed:

 

Dr Gab Abramowitz

Senior Lecturer, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Dr Ashish Agar

Conjoint Senior Lecturer, Prince of Wales Clinical School

Faculty of Medicine


Associate Professor Meera Agar

Conjoint Associate Professor, South Western Sydney Clinical School

Faculty of Medicine


André Almeida

Research Assistant, School of Physics

Faculty of Science


Professor Michael Archer

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Professor Michael Ashley

Professor, School of Physics

Faculty of Science


Associate Professor Jeremy Bailey

Associate Professor, School of Physics

Faculty of Science


Dr Jennifer Beer

UNSW Alumni


Dr Jonathon Beeves

Lecturer, School of Chemistry

Faculty of Science


Dr Zanny Begg

Lecturer, School of Art

Faculty of Art & Design


Chantel Benbow

Research Assistant, Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Professor Jill Bennett

Associate Dean (Research)

Faculty of Art & Design


Dr Simone Bignall

Vice Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Jose Bilboa

Researcher, School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Ilse Blignault

Visiting Fellow, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Jonathan Bollen

Senior Lecturer, School of the Arts and Media

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Mark Braidwood

Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Stephen Bremner

Senior Lecturer, School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Thomas Britz

Lecturer, School of Mathematics and Statistics

Faculty of Science


Dr Matthew Broome

Research Fellow, Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology

Faculty of Science


Associate Professor Paul Brown

Honorary Associate Professor, Institute of Environmental Studies

Faculty of Science


Dr Anne Bunde-Birouste

Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Professor Michael Burton

Professor, School of Physics

Faculty of Science


Dr Magnolia Cardona-Morrell

Senior Research Fellow, Simpson Centre for Health Services Research, SWS Clinical School

Faculty of Medicine


Professor Rick Cavicchioli

School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences

Faculty of Science


Associate Professor Manuel Chakravarty

School of Computer Science and Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Professor Enrico Coiera

Centre for Health Informatics

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Diana Combe

School of Mathematics and Statistics

Faculty of Science


Dr Richard Corkish

Senior Lecturer, School of Photovoltaic & Renewable Energy Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Peta Cox

UNSW Alumni, Senior Research Officer at Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety


Associate Professor Jacquelyn Cranney

School of Psychology

Faculty of Science


Sonia Crozier

UNSW Alumni


Associate Professor Darren Curnoe

ARC Future Fellow, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science 


Jacqueline Dalziell

Lecturer, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 


Dr Jan Maree Davis

Conjoint lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Professor Richard Day AM

Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, St Vincent’s Clinical School

Faculty of Medicine


Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf

Deputy Director, Institute of Environmental Studies

Faculty of Science


Dr Thom van Dooren

Senior Lecturer, Environmental Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 


Dr Christian Downie

Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Alistair Drake

Honorary Senior Lecturer, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences

UNSW Canberra


Professor Timothy Duty

ARC Chief Investigator, Engineered Quantum Systems

Faculty of Science


Dr Scott East

Lecturer

Faculty of Art & Design


Dr Ben Elliston

School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications

Faculty of Engineering


Associate Professor Jason Evans

ARC Future Fellow, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Associate Professor Nadine Ezard


Dr Mehreen Faruqi

Senior Visiting Fellow, Institute of Environmental Studies

Faculty of Science


Dr Joanne Faulkner

Lecturer in Philosophy & Women’s and Gender Studies, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences


Felicity Fenner

Director, UNSW Galleries

Faculty of Art & Design


Sally Fitzgerald

Lecturer, Muru Marri, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Louise Fowler-Smith

Director, Imaging the Land International Research Initiative, College of Fine Arts

Faculty of Art & Design


Dr Juan Alvarez Gaitan

Research Associate, Water Research Centre

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Heather Gidding

Senior Research Fellow, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Alan Giddy

Director of Environmental Research Initiative for Art, College of Fine Arts

Faculty of Art & Design


John Gillies

Senior Lecturer

Faculty of Art & Design


Dr Ben Golder

Senior Lecturer

Faculty of Law


Marcia Grand Ortega

Research Officer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Donna Green

Senior Lecturer, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Dr Sarah Gregson 

Senior Lecturer, School of Management

UNSW Business School


Dr Michalis Hadjikakou

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Water Research Centre

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Glenda Halliday

Professor of Neuroscience & NHMRC Senior Principal Research Fellow

Faculty of Medicine


Associate Professor Chris Hamer

Visiting Associate Professor, School of Physics

Faculty of Science


Dr Mary Ellen Harrod

Research Fellow, The Kirby Institute

Faculty of Medicine


Associate Professor Melissa Haswell-Elkins

Associate Professor, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Stephen Healy

Senior Lecturer, Environmental Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


 

Dr Sigi Jottkandt

Senior Lecturer, School of the Arts and Media

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Craig Johnson

Process Manager, Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Jules Kajtar

Research Associate, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science 


Dr Henner Kampwerth

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Research Fellow, School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering

Faculty of Engineering 


Dr Matthew Kearnes

ARC Future Fellow & Convenor, Environmental Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Mark Keevers

Researcher, School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Professor David Keith

Professor, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Dr Joris Keizer

Research Fellow, Centre for Quantm Computation and Communication Technology

Faculty of Science


Dr Lindsay Kelley

Associate Lecturer

Faculty of Art & Design


Associate Professor Stuart Khan

School of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Professor Richard Kingsford

Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Dr Eben Kirksey

DECRA Fellow and Senior Lecturer, Environmental Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Andrew Kiss

Lecturer, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences

UNSW Canberra


Claudia Koch-McQuillan

Sessional Lecturer, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Tassia Kolesnikow

Casual Lecturer, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Dr Declan Kuch

Research Fellow

Faculty of Law 


Shaun Kumar

School of Medical Sciences

Faculty of Medicine 


Maggie Langtry

UNSW Alumni, Project Manager at Sustainable Advantage Group Australia


Lesley Lees

UNSW Alumni, Director at Sustainable Advantage Group Australia 


Associate Professor Torsten Lehmann

Associate Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunication

Faculty of Engineering


Tanya Lippmann

Research Assistant, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Dr Tim Luckett

Research Associate, South Western Sydney Clinical School

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Johannes Luetz

Lecturer Development Studies, School of Social Sciences; Institute of Environmental Studies Affiliate

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Simon Lumsden

Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Ian Macadam

Climate Science Coordinator, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Sarah J. MacLeod

Doctoral candidate, School of Physics

Faculty of Science


Associate Professor Sarah Maddison

Australian Research Council Future Fellow, School of Social Sciences

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Aaron Magner

Director, UNSW Safety and Sustainability

UNSW Alumni


Dr Bradley Mathers

Research Fellow, The Kirby Institute

Faculty of Medicine


Miad Mazaheri

Doctoral candidate, School of Physics

Faculty of Science


Justin McCann

Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Professor Dennis McDermott

Senior Conjoint Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Associate Professor Duncan McDuie-Ra

Associate Dean (Research), Associate Professor in Development Studies

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Associate Professor David McKnight

School of the Arts and Media

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Associate Professor Katrin Meissner

ARC Future Fellow, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Dr Melissa Merritt

Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Associate Professor Adam Micolich

Associate Professor, School of Physics

Faculty of Science 


Dr Bernhard Mitchell

Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Professor Angela Moles

ARC Queen Elizabeth II Fellow, Evolution & Ecology Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Associate Professor Scott Mooney

Faculty Presiding Member, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Professor Bronwen Morgan

Australian Research Council Future Fellow

Faculty of Law


Dr Stephen Morrell

Senior Research Fellow, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Professor Judy Motion

Professor of Communication, Environmental Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Professor Stephen Muecke

Professor of Ethnography, Environmental Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 


Dr Paul Munro

Lecturer, Environmental Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 


Associate Professor Andrew Murphie

School of the Arts and Media

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Judith O’Callaghan

Director of Postgraduate Research and Senior Lecturer in Interior Architecture

Faculty of the Built Environment


Dr Paul Osmond

Director of Discipline, Built Environment Sustainable Development

Faculty of the Built Environment


Scientia Professor George Paxinos

School of Medical Sciences

Faculty of Medicine


Professor Hal Pawson

Professor of Housing Research and Policy

Faculty of the Built Environment


Associate Professor James Philips

School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr John Porter

Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Professor Nicolas Rasmussen

Professor, Environmental Humanities

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Husna Razee

Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Helen Redmond

Conjoint Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Rebecca Reynolds

Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Camilla Ridoutt

Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Dr Daniel Robinson

Senior Lecturer and Convenor of Masters of Environmental Management, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Adjunct Professor Deborah Rose

Adjunct Professor, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr David Roser

Senior Research Associate, Sustainability Assessment Program, Water Research Centre

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Peter Ross

Lecturer, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Hazel Rowley

Senior Research Associate, Water Research Centre

Faculty of Engineering


Peter Sainsbury

Visiting Professorial Fellow, City Futures Research Centre

Faculty of the Built Environment 


Dr Suzanne Schibeci

Lecturer, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Dr Alex Sen Gupta

Senior Lecturer, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Professor Steven Sherwood

Director, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Judith Schinabeck

Research Associate, Water Research Centre

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Krishna Shrestha

Senior Lecturer in Development Studies, School of Social Sciences

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Professor Marie Sierra

Deputy Dean and Head of School

Faculty of Art & Design


Dr Ben Silverstein

Honours Convenor & Lecturer

Nura Gili


Dr Colin Simpson

Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences

UNSW Canberra


Claire Sives

Research Assistant, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Dr Peter Slezak

Associate Professor, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Associate Professor Alistair Sproul

Associate Professor, School of Photovoltaics and Renewable Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Niamh Stephenson

Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Emeritus Professor John Storey

Chief Officer, Scientific Comittee on Antarctic Research

Faculty of Science


Professor Iain Suthers

Professor, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Science


Peter Tait

UNSW Alumni

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Siranda Torvaldsen

Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Professor Chris Turney

ARC Laureate Fellow, Climate Change Research Centre

Faculty of Science 


Scientia Professor Ian Tyrell

School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Dr Markos Valaris

Lecturer, School of Humanities and Languages

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Stephen Ward

Director of Industrial Design

Faculty of the Built Environment


Associate Professor David Warton

Australian Research Council Research Fellow, School of Mathematics and Statistics and the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre

Faculty of Science


Dr Haydn Washington

Visiting Fellow, Institute of Environmental Studies

Faculty of Science


Dr Eilean Watson

Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Muriel Watt

Senior Lecturer, School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Professor James Weirick

Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Urban Development and Design Program

Faculty of the Built Environment


Steve Weymouth

Lecturer, College of Fine Arts

Faculty of Art & Design


Dr Jeni Whalan

Lecturer, School of Social Sciences

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


Associate Professor Tommy Wiedmann

Sustainability Assessment Program, Water Research Centre

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Lisa Williams

Lecturer, School of Psychology

Faculty of Science


Professor Kenneth Williams

School of Medical Sciences

Faculty of Medicine


Associate Professor Wayne Wobcke 

Associate Professor, School of Computer Science and Engineering

Faculty of Engineering


Dr Alex Wodak AM

Visiting Fellow, Kirby Institute

Faculty of Medicine


Dr Josh Wodak

Associate Lecturer

Faculty of Art & Design


Professor Joe Wolfe

Professor, School of Physics

Faculty of Science


Yichelle Zhang

Lecturer, School of Accounting

Australian School of Business, UNSW


Professor Anthony Zwi

School of Social Sciences

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Supporting the move to a fossil-free future