Latest newsletter: UCT march planned for 11 Oct, and other news

UCT campaign ongoing, divestment march on campus on Tuesday 11 October

Our continuing campaign at UCT has moved the university to develop a draft ethical investment policy. If approved, that policy will create the channels for UCT to consider a commitment to divestment. The university’s ethical investment task team meets again this Thursday. 

  • To keep up the pressure on UCT, we are planning a march calling again on the university to divest. The march will start at the ACDI building at 1pm on Tuesday 11 October. Mpho Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, has indicated she will do her best to attend and support.
  • In preparation, there will be a screening of the 350.org divestment documentary Do the Math on Monday, 12 Sept at 6pm, EGS studio 1. (All welcome, please bring snacks.)

Divest-Reinvest webinar hosted by Global Catholic Climate Movement

For those who would like to learn more about divestment, the Global Catholic Climate Movement is hosting an online webinar tomorrow at 2–3.30pm SA time. You don’t have to be Catholic to register, and while there’ll no doubt be a faith-based angle to it, lots for all of us to learn. Register here.

General news

  • Later this year (details TBC), we are planning a workshop on how South African investors can start finding ways to divest, and how we can push for ethical/divested options in South Africa. Please get in touch if you wish to contribute, or suggest contributors.
  • 350.org is hosting a national student summit on divestment in Johannesburg later this month (UCT students are attending.) Contact Ahmed Mokgopo (ahmed@350.org) for details.
  • The most recent university to divest is the Queensland University of Technology, which announced its plans last Friday. As ever, Jeremy Leggett provides excellent updates on the progress of the ‘Carbon War’.

Reminders 

  • If you’re associated with UCT and would like to publicly endorse the 2015 letter of the UCT ACDI Masters Class urging divestment, please read and sign up
  • We have 18A tax exempt status now – please consider starting a R50 or R100 monthly stop order in our favour. Our deep thanks to those who have already done so. Please contact Rob (robzipplies@gmail.com) for a tax certificate. 
  • If you’d like to set up your own campus divestment campaign, please contact us, or consult this useful starter guide.

Divestment featured in earthworks magazine

The campaign for fossil fuel divestment and the work of Fossil Free SA has been covered in an article in earthworks magazine.

UCT and fossil free divestment

On 17 May 2016, the African Climate Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town hosted a seminar on fossil free divestment at the university. The event was a partnership between ACDI, the Climate Action Project and Fossil Free UCT.

Fossil Free UCT has been campaigning since 2013 for UCT to divest from fossil fuels. The university has, in response, established an ethical investing task team, which is currently considering structures and procedures to consider divestment and other responsible investing issues. Divestment remains very low as a priority on the student agenda, and there is considerable reluctance and resistance amongst academics to the idea of divestment, even amongst those who accept and acknowledge the need for deep and urgent action on climate change.

Divestment is particularly technically challenging in South Africa, which has (with China) one of the world’s two most fossil-fuel intensive economies, and no existing culture of ethical investing. Remarkably, few South Africans are aware of or remember that our country benefited greatly from one of history’s most significant divestment campaigns, that against apartheid.

Panelists

Professor Alexandra Watson is the Richard Sonnenberg Professor of Accounting at UCT. She is a member of the board of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Alexandra is also on the board of Coronation Asset Management, and serves on the UCT Ethical Investing Task Team.

Ralph Hamann is Professor at the GSB, and he holds a Research Chair with the UCT African Climate and Development Initiative.

Kirtanya Lutchminarayan is a Masters student in the science faculty, a representative of the Green Campus Initiative, and a long-time supporter of Fossil Free UCT.

The discussion was chaired by David Le Page of Fossil Free UCT/SA, a UCT alumnus and environmental journalist.

Seminar on UCT and divestment on 17 May

On Tuesday 17 May, at 1.10pm, there will be a seminar on UCT and fossil fuel divestment, in EGS Studio 5, Upper Campus. The event is co-hosted by the African Development Development Initiative, Climate Action Society, Green Campus Initiative and Fossil Free UCT.

Background: Following urging from Fossil Free UCT, the UCT Council decided in 2015 that the University’s investments should henceforth be managed on a basis that includes ethical considerations. But what should that mean in practice? Given that climate change has been described as the greatest threat of the age to human rights, security and economic stability, most of all in Africa, should UCT be joining the international fossil fuel divestment movement? We’ll ask three panelists for their views, then open for questions and discussion.

Confirmed panelists are Professor Alexandra Watson (Commerce), Professor Ralph Hamann (Graduate School of Business) and Kirtanya Lutchminarayan (Green Campus Initiative and Fossil Free UCT).

By the way, if you’d like to also endorse the 2015 letter of the ACDI Masters Class urging divestment, you can read and endorse it here.

David Le Page wins the Eco-Warrior category in the 2015/16 Enviropaedia Eco-Logic Awards

So last night I won the Eco-Warrior category of the Enviropaedia 2015/16 Eco-Logic Awards. Many, many thanks to everyone who has supported Fossil Free South Africa and Fossil Free UCT, especially Robert Zipplies (who screened the doccie that spawned the idea and helped boost everything to a new level by formalising and fundraising for the campaign), our management committee (Cormac Cullinan, Happy Khambule, Nick King), William Frater who has greatly bolstered our credibility in the dialogue with UCT, and the comrades who signed that first letter to UCT in 2013 that kicked everything off, who included Jane Notten, Claire Kelly, Gina Ziervogel and Eduard Grebe. Also thanks to stalwarts like James Irlam, Giorgina King, Kirtanya Lutch, Tania Katzschner, Kai Coetzee, and to the many people who donated to our first crowdfunding campaign, and supported our late 2014 road trip. And of course, 350.org, which started the international divestment campaign.

Here’s hoping this award will help raise the profile of the campaign. We’re on the winning side of history, the world is decarbonising – but still not fast enough, and still without understanding the deeper cultural roots of our problems – the lack of faith in and care for each other, the compulsive desires for more-more-more, the excessive faith in technology, the religious attachment to economic growth, the loss of reverence for nature.

‘This Changes Everything’

Fossil Free South Africa held a successful screening of the documentary This Changes Everything on 26 November in Cape Town. Based on the book by Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything argues that the climate crisis is not just caused by our technology, but by the Enlightenment idea that humanity can command nature like a machine, an attitude embodied in the functioning of contemporary hypercapitalism. But if we regain respect for the power of the natural world, learn to work in rhythm with its own functioning and with respect for natural boundaries (here’s a great link to solutions), then perhaps we stand a chance of averting the catastrophes that climate change might bring  upon us: ‘What if global warming isn’t only a crisis? What if it’s the best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world?’

The screening was preceded by brief presentations from the Sun Exchange and the Collective Objective, and we urged guests to attend the People’s Climate March this coming Sunday.

Submission to Parliament on the South African negotiating position for the UNFCCC COP 21 climate change negotiations in Paris

The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs held a two-day public hearings process on climate change. The Committee received more than 30 submissions from interested parties and stakeholders on South Africa’s COP 21 position.

Fossil Free SA presents in Parliament: the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs held a two-day public hearings process on climate change. The Committee received more than 30 submissions from interested parties and stakeholders on South Africa’s COP 21 position.

Parliament held public hearings on climate change on 22/23 September, and Fossil Free South Africa made a submission to the hearings. This is the full text of our submission, which we presented in person as well, in slightly abbreviated form.

  1. Introduction

Honourable chairperson, honourable members of the portfolio committee, negotiators, comrades, molweni nonke.

I represent Fossil Free South Africa1 and Fossil Free UCT. I will provide a brief introduction to my organisation and the cause I represent. I will then critique two particular aspects of the discussion paper outlining SA’s position at the COP 21 Paris talks on climate change.

We endorse many of the calls you have heard already – for the most ambitious targets on emissions reductions, the calls for a just transition, the calls by Greenpeace, SAFCEI, Cosatu, Earthlife, WWF.

Firstly, you may not have heard of us, so let me explain a little about Fossil Free South Africa.

In March 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and three months later, he visited the United States, to thank those who had supported the struggle against apartheid, and to ask for continued pressure on the apartheid regime. On 30 June 1990, Madiba stood in Oakland, California, and there, speaking to 58,000 people, he said: “We salute the state of California for having such a powerful, principled stand on divestment.” And he praised the University of California, for also divesting from South Africa.

Well, I must tell you today that 25 years later, the state of California is again taking a stand on the greatest human rights issue of our time – climate change – by starting its own divestment from fossil fuels. California, which has the largest population of any state in the US, and which is the eighth largest economy in the world, (more…)