Univer­sity of Auck­land’s ‘empty words’

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - JAMES PASLEY

An Auck­land univer­sity is be­ing crit­i­cised for host­ing a cli­mate change so­lu­tions event while con­tin­u­ing to in­vest in fos­sil fu­els.

The Univer­sity of Auck­land will host Cli­mathon, a free 24 hour global ‘‘ideas hack’’ in Oc­to­ber, to work on strate­gies to solve cli­mate is­sues.

Par­tic­i­pants will at­tempt to fig­ure out how Auck­land’s growth could be pow­ered in a low car­bon way that was af­ford­able and ac­ces­si­ble.

The univer­sity has been crit­i­cised by cli­mate change group Fos­sil Free UoA for more than two years for its fail­ure to di­vest from fos­sil fu­els.

Fos­sil Free UoA has staged protests and sit-ins to de­mand the univer­sity di­vest from oil, coal and gas com­pa­nies and es­ti­mated it has $2.7 mil­lion in­vested in the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try.

Vice-chan­cel­lor Stu­art McCutcheon said the univer­sity took its re­spon­si­bil­ity to be good global cit­i­zens se­ri­ously.

‘‘Auck­land Cli­mathon is a chance to not only sup­port an im­por­tant global event, but for our staff and stu­dents to add se­ri­ous brain­power to solv­ing some of Auck­land’s most press­ing is­sues,’’ McCutcheon said.

How­ever Fos­sil Free UoA spokesper­son Alex John­ston said these were ‘‘empty words’’.

‘‘If the vice-chan­cel­lor took se­ri­ously his re­spon­si­bil­ity as leader of the univer­sity and global cit­i­zen then he would use his position to ask the foun­da­tion to di­vest,’’ John­ston said.

The event was a good cli­mate change ini­tia­tive, but it was easy cov­er­age, and McCutcheon needed to be will­ing to act when it came to the hard de­ci­sions, he said.

‘‘So­lu­tions are great, but the univer­sity needs to back it up with di­vest­ing.’’

The event shouldn’t be boy­cotted, but the univer­sity had to do more than look for so­lu­tions, it had to take part in pre­vent­ing cli­mate change, he said.

Ear­lier this year a univer­sity spokesper­son said it had no ju­ris­dic­tion over the Univer­sity of Auck­land Foun­da­tion, which was re­spon­si­ble for in­vest­ments, but it had a strong com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity.

As part of its strat­egy the univer­sity was seek­ing to reduce en­ergy con­sump­tion, waste and car­bon diox­ide, the spokesper­son said.

More than 200 cities, in­clud­ing Welling­ton and Christchurch, will par­tic­i­pate in Cli­math­ons around the world on Oc­to­ber 27.

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