The ANU divestment decision is on the front page of the AFR again today:
Federal Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs said Australian National University’s blacklisting of gas producer Santos and six other resource companies was a threat to jobs, increasing pressure on the university to drop its boycott.
Mr Briggs, the first member of the Abbott government to weigh in on the issue and a South Australian, said he would write to ask ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young “for an explanation and to reconsider his course of action”.
So how is the ANU defending itself?
Professor Young defended the ANU’s approach. “A company like Santos .?.?. is essentially an oil and gas producer, and so, it may in fact be a very responsible company in terms of a whole range of things that it does, and I’m sure it is,” he told the ABC’s Lateline on Wednesday .
“But because it is primarily an oil and gas-producing company, then it will perform poorly on the environmental criteria because it’s a major source of CO2 emissions, which, as we all know, has a significant impact on climate.”
Oh dear – that is a very unfortunate explanation. The AFR has a second story involving the ANU.
The Australian National University’s carbon emissions are three times the level of other leading universities per student.
Official figures from the Clean Energy Regulator show the university, which blacklisted seven resource companies from its investment portfolio last week, is a high emitter of greenhouse gases considering its small size.
ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young on Wednesday justified the university’s sale of Santos shares – one of the seven blacklisted companies – because its oil and gas production is “a major source of CO2 emissions, which, as we all know, has a significant impact on climate”.
Among the eight universities with published emission levels for 2012-13 ANU was fourth highest – responsible for 101,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in greenhouse gases.
A spokesperson for ANU said the university’s energy consumption was boosted by Australia’s largest supercomputer, which is housed at ANU and jointly run by ANU, CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology.
“The supercomputer facility, which is amongst other programs, facilitates research with a focus on the environment, and in climate and earth system science, accounts for about 20 per cent of the university’s energy consumption,” she said.
ANU THE ONLY AUSTRALIAN UNIVERSITY TO DIVEST
Even if ANU’s emissions were cut by 20 per cent, its level would be higher than the University of NSW, another research-intensive university, which emitted 65,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent for 52,000 students. Another reason why the ANU has higher emissions may be the large number of research-only staff who are based in its research schools.
I think we’re going to see a policy reversal, and a change in senior management at the ANU.