Dr Max Price – Vice-Chancellor
CC: Prof Crain Soudien – Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation and Social Responsiveness
CC: Prof Enrico Uliana – Director of Finance
CC: Peter Grant
CC: Prof Mark New – Pro-Vice-Chancellor: ACDI
CC: Hugh Amoore – Registrar
30 September 2014
Dear Dr Price
Working together on UCT’s investment strategy
Thanks again for your email of 30 July acknowledging our Fossil Free UCT campaign launch.
We are happy to relate that the launch was very successful, with over 100 people attending. Students, academic staff and alumni were well-represented at the event and nearly 30 members of the university community signed up for a working group which has since had several meetings.
A number of speakers addressed the gathering. Mark New concentrated on the expected climate impacts on and costs to African countries (including the destruction of agricultural livelihoods and likely massive adaptation costs) in the absence of radical steps to reduce carbon emissions. As a university working to address poverty and inequality, it must be vital that our investment strategies do not undermine this work by supporting fossil fuel companies that are contributing to climate change.
Richard Calland stressed UCT’s responsibility as a premier centre of research and learning to show leadership on this critical issue of fossil fuel divestment.
UCT alumna and award-winning director Jolynn Minnar spoke about her documentary on fracking, Unearthed, which reveals many aspects of the unscrupulous behaviour of the fossil fuel industry.
Outgoing GCI chair Ashleigh Arton reminded us of UCT’s existing sustainability commitments, particularly the Talloires Declaration. UCT has long said it will “set an example of environmental responsibility”, and will “work with national and international organisations to promote a worldwide university effort toward a sustainable future.”
The event attracted some media coverage, centred on Archbishop Tutu’s support for our call for UCT to divest. Clearly, there is a great deal of interest in fossil fuel divestment and related sustainability issues on campus, which we hope will translate into widespread support.
A distinct thread in the general response is a desire for the university community to match action on divestment with a serious look at how it meets its own energy needs (with some calling for a clear plan towards carbon neutrality), and ensuring that the curriculum meets the likely needs of a transition towards a more sustainable economy.
Given that we have demonstrated a high level of interest in and substantial support for divestment, we request the response of the university administration to the following questions:
1. The Joint Investment Committee met on 5 August.
i Has the committee received the report on Socially Responsible Investment from Towers Watson, and what is the anticipated process for making decisions on its recommendations?
ii Could we please have a copy of the Towers Watson report?
2. Despite our original request for information last November, and our meeting with finance director Professor Uliana in March, we still have not had a clear answer to part of our original query: what is the extent of the university’s investments in fossil fuels? We understand that this is not simple to determine, and that the breakdown of offshore investments is particularly hard to ascertain. However, we assume that by now at least a rough estimate is available. Could you share with us the best estimate currently available and what steps the JIC and the fund managers operating under its mandate have taken and/or will take to compile accurate information?
3. We understand that the JIC must have specific mandates in respect of the funds it manages on behalf of UCT and the UCT Trust, and that the members of the committee have a responsibility to meet the requirements of such mandates in any decisions they take.
i Could we please have copies of the JIC’s mandate(s), and the mandates given in turn to fund managers?
ii What is the process for determining/amending the JIC’s mandate? In particular, we would like to ascertain whether the JIC’s mandate is determined in full by the UCT council and what role, if any, is played by the UCT Trust.
iii Would you kindly advise us of the current composition of the UCT Trust’s board of trustees?
4. We hope to assemble a panel of experts in progressive investing to consider whatever recommendations and thinking may emerge from the Towers Watson report and recent discussions within the JIC. Would the JIC be open to representations from such a panel?
We would also like to alert the JIC to the publication on 16 September of the report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (see newclimateeconomy.report), which contains the most up-to-date global economic analysis on the anticipated costs of unmitigated climate change.
No doubt you have followed the past week’s events in New York around the UN climate summit. There, divestment totalling $50 billion was announced, and our own chancellor, Graça Machel, told the UN, “There is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the [climate] challenge and the response we heard here today. The scale is much more than we have achieved… You must have the courage to tell business that it is not only about the profits but about our collective survival and wellbeing.”
We have created a draft declaration and petition (wp.me/P4yMWs-23) calling on UCT to divest.
We really appreciate the university’s openness to this discussion, and look forward to working together to make UCT a confident leader on this most important issue. We request that this letter be passed on to members of Council.
Eduard Grebe (postdoctoral research fellow, UCT)
David Le Page (alum)
Gina Ziervogel (senior lecturer, Department of Environmental and Geographical Science)
Kai Coetzee (student, Green Campus Initiative)
Ashleigh Arton (former chairperson, Green Campus Initiative)
Jesse Burton (PhD candidate and programmer co-ordinator, UCT)
Jane Notten (alum)
James Irlam (senior lecturer, Primary Health Care Directorate)
Tania Katzschner (lecturer, City & Regional Planning)
Robert Zipplies (sustainability consultant, alum)
Sandra Rippon (sustainability consultant, alum)
Cormac Cullinan (research associate, Department of Public Law)
Richard Calland (associate professor, law faculty)
For Fossil Free UCT