Letter to the AFR about its campaign on ANU’s divestment decision.

Numerous stories in the AFR recently have lambasted ANU’s decision to divest from 7 miners on ESG grounds. One even claimed that it lacked courage.

Given this sort of reaction, surely the truly courageous thing is to have acted at all.

The ANU has not divested from fossil fuels. It will probably reinvest in other mining companies. But it has tried to take an evidenced based, reasoned approach to a complex issue. It has that right, and obligation under law. Yet the critics seem to think the sheer idea is reprehensible.

ANU has for decades not invested in tobacco. It has already divested from Metgasco. Its decision on Santos and Oil Search will be the first of many fossil fuel divestments at Australian universities.

The reaction to this seems premised on the idea that mining is a golden goose for Australia’s economy. Let us remember that mining represents 2% of Australian employment, less than 5% of government revenue, and 85% of profits go overseas.

If there are socially responsible miners, let ANU invest in them. Sure, let their investment decisions be scrutinised. But with ESG investing going mainstream and a climate catastrophe bearing down on us, ANU is merely starting to do — very cautiously — what any leading university ought to do.

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