By Maya Taylor-Trenow
With last year’s funding cuts to Australian universities, the pandemic-induced decrease in international student enrolments, and the financial support offered by its close ties with oil and gas companies such as Chevron, Woodside and LNG, UWA’s Fossil Free network is going to play an important role in demanding the university act on the climate crisis. While the Fossil Free Network had the aim of ensuring all new fossil fuel projects cease by 2020, this ‘year that will not be named’ has been and gone, and our planet is still crying.
At the end of 2019 and all through last year, Fossil Free UWA (FFUWA) developed the Stop the Centre Campaign, directed at stopping the Centre for Long Subsea Tiebacks – a research project, funded by Woodside and Chevron, that aims to enhance offshore technology for LNG extraction, all in the name of ‘transition gases’. This campaign is still a work-in-progress and is something that FFUWA will continue to advocate for throughout 2021, in collaboration with a newly formed activist club, ‘Students 4 Environmental Action’(S4EA).
UWA’s paid membership with APPEA – the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association – is another issue that FFUWA will tackle in 2021. APPEA, mentioned on several occasions in 350.org’s recent Captured State Report, is a national lobbying group of the oil and gas industry in Australia, with the overwhelmingly elaborate vision of ‘energy for a better Australia’, and a strong aversion to any sort of environmental protection or emissions reductions.
While UWA’s membership with this company makes sense in the context of their current support of oil and gas research and development, its benefits for the university are questionable. The statement that such a membership makes also contradicts UWA’s target to be carbon neutral by 2025. And of course, at a time when thousands of dollars of funding has been cut, and new student intakes are low, UWA should surely be looking to reduce their spending wherever they can.
The FFUWA committee will be partially established before 19th February – O-Day, where there will be further opportunities for new students to get involved. While FFUWA will not have its own stall, there will be Fossil Free UWA presence at both the Environment Department and S4EA stalls, along with copies of the Captured State reports and one-page summaries.
I am very excited to get things moving for FFUWA, and I hope that we are able to bring positive changes to UWA’s climate action attitude. I look forward to keeping you all updated as the year progresses!