Is your university climate smart?
Is you university letting you down?

Is your university climate smart?

Find out what part universities are playing in climate change

After the Global Financial Crisis many of the top universities globally were put under severe financial pressure that saw funding cuts and large restructures. The simple reason for this is that their operations relied – and still rely - heavily on returns from their portfolio investments. The Vital Few want to ensure that in future our top universities avoid losing more important funding because they are invested in risky, emissions intensive businesses that could face a large devaluation in value due to increasing carbon regulation and breakthroughs in renewable energy technology. Of course, we also want universities to invest in low carbon companies because this is the best option for our climate. Read more…

Risk? What risk?

Over at Grist this week, environmental risk assessor Dana Nuccitelli talks about the response to climate change as “humanity’s greatest-ever risk management failure“. Humans are generally quite risk-averse, she argues, and in no other area of our lives would we tolerate such a risk to our safety – for example, the average American man has a 42 per cent chance of contracting cancer in his lifetime, and yet if chemical contamination causes that risk to increase by even 0.001 per cent, we’ll shut the whole site down for years and not let people anywhere near it. In relative terms the added risk is quite small, and yet our response is swift and certain.

By way of contrast, consider Nuccitelli’s summary of the risks of widespread climate change:

These risks include more than half of global species potentially being at risk of extinction, extreme weather like heat waves becoming more commonplace, global food supplies put at risk by this more frequent extreme weather, glaciers and their associated water resources for millions of people disappearing, rising sea levels inundating coastlines, and so forth.This isn’t some slim 1-in-a-million risk; we’re looking at seriously damaging climate consequences in the most likely, business-as-usual scenario.

Read more…

Our big idea

Asset Owners Disclosure Project chair John Hewson appeared on ABC Radio National’s Big Ideas program last night, as part of a panel discussion on the impact climate change will have on our cities and the way we live our day-to-day lives. The panel was hosted by Paul Barclay and also featured John Connor, who is CEO of The Climate Institute.

Different panellists spoke of the impact a changing climate will have on their areas of expertise, from ecology and social policy to health and urban planning. Hewson took the opportunity to talk about the massive risks related to financial investment. After working with The Vital Few over the past few months, I realised I’ve become accustomed to the huge numbers involved – I suppose it’s easy to forget how staggering the concept of a $70 trillion risk (that is not being managed effectively) was the first time I heard it. And yet during last night’s discussion Hewson mentioned that $70 trillion – the amount currently sitting in super and pension funds worldwide, the equivalent of the entire planet’s GDP – and if you listen to the podcast you’ll hear the surprise in Barclay’s reaction. It’s the same shock I felt initially, which is a good reminder of how crucial it is for those of us in the know to keep raising awareness and helping to mobilise others. Read more…

US chooses not to fund new coal plant!

Some excellent news for the environment arrived via the USA and Vietnam last week. The US Export Import Bank (the official bank of the US which is used to fund a range of projects around the world) decided not to back a new coal power plant in Vietnam. The huge decision is linked not only to pure environmental concerns but also the impacts a recent speech from Obama has had on the US financial sector. Whilst the bank has funded the development of coal power stations in the past this decision is touted to be an important precedent, putting environmental concerns before economic ones. At The Vital Few we are hoping that this is the first of many such proactive decisions.

Want to read more? Check out the full article here.

Feeling inspired to get your money working for the environment rather than against it? Join the Vital Few here, and start by sending a letter to your super fund.

The true price of coal

I finally got around to reading Bill McKibben’s article in the June edition of The Monthly this week. Titled ‘False Profits’, it looks at the impact of Australia’s coal mining and export industry on global climate change, and what we need to do if we want to minimise that impact (hint: stop mining and exporting so much coal).

As a relative newcomer to the cause, I liked this article for a few reasons – not least of them being that McKibben, who is president and co-founder of, is a pretty rad guy. He’s a great writer, and here he’s managed to present a very emotive issue in a reasonable, balanced way. For the uninitiated (especially those living in Australia), it’s a good entry point to the issue of climate change: it identifies the internationally accepted two-degree warming limit, and the roughly 500 gigatons of carbon we can release into the atmosphere worldwide before we breach it. It then points out the percentage of that carbon Australia’s coal-mining industry will produce if we don’t leave the stuff in the ground: roughly 30 per cent at last estimate, meaning changing the behaviour of individual Australians is far less important than reshaping our resource industries. Read more…