University of Auckland’s ‘empty words’
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.