Even smart people can make dumb choices.
Greenpeace findings launched today indicate the University of Sydney owns a $1 million stake in Whitehaven Coal, owners of the controversial Maules Creek coal mine.
Maules Creek isn’t any old mine. Not only is it the largest coal mine under construction in Australia, it’s also flattening endangered forest, trashing indigenous heritage sites and destroying prime farmland. When up and running, Maules Creek will contribute 30 million tons of CO2emissions per year, speeding up dangerous global warming. That’s hardly in line with the University’s public policy to invest in a green and ethical manner.
Australia’s big universities are already under serious pressure for investing in fossil fuels. So much so that they recently got together to decide how to respond. Unfortunately, the result was a weaselly agreement to keep quiet and ride out the storm.
But they need to know this isn’t a storm that’s going to pass.
We can break this code of silence. To do so, we need to turn up the heat. Right now, we need tens of thousands of you to write to Sydney Uni’s Vice-Chancellor, Michael Spence, calling on him to sell the uni's shares in Whitehaven Coal.
$1 million may not make or break a huge mine, but Whitehaven is desperate for cash. In fact, in 2013, it was the worst performer out of the top 100 companies on the Australian stock exchange. So getting the University of Sydney to pull out would be a powerful move because once one investor goes, others tend to follow.
We are at a key moment in the campaign. In June, our friends at the Maules Creek Community Council took Whitehaven to court for bulldozing the Leard State Forest during hibernation season - literally killing animals while they slept.
Sadly, it was only a temporary reprieve. The machines could rev up again as early as September, so we need to act now. Can you add your voice today?
Sydney Uni is a multi-billion dollar institution - one of the most recognised and respected in the country - so even though investing in Whitehaven is in breach of its own principles, getting them to change won’t be easy.
But people power has done this before. After a similar campaign, the Australian National University recently divested from coal seam gas firm Metgasco, and in May last year, Stanford University in California – one of the world’s leading universities with a total endowment of $US 18.7 billion - announced that it would not make any direct investments in coal companies.
Stanford’s President said: ‘Moving away from coal in the investment context is a small, but constructive, step while work continues, at Stanford and elsewhere, to develop broadly viable sustainable energy solutions for the future.’
A smart move.
Together, we can help Sydney Uni do the same.
Let’s do it.
Climate and Energy Campaigner
Greenpeace Australia Pacific
PS. It’s not just the animals and the climate that will suffer. The damage to farmland is simply staggering. Cliff Wallace, whose family has been working the land for decades, said: “The dust created by the mine is really going to hurt our lungs and our crops. But water is the biggest issue for us as farmers. This mine will take a huge amount of water from nearby rivers and our water aquifers. We won’t be able to irrigate.”
In fact, while farmers face the aftermath of a severe drought, 4 million litres of water would be guzzled up every day from the nearby Namoi River to build the mine.
We can help farmers like Cliff by taking action today.
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