Glen Tyler of 350:– The first Divest Fest in South Africa wasted little time in getting down to climate solutions. A group of 18 people came together in Cape Town to learn and take action for fossil fuel divestment. The organiser, David Le Page from Fossil Free South Africa (FFSA) set the scene and underlined the urgent need for action by giving an overview of the threat of climate change – unfortunately a relatively easy job in a city that is experiencing a crippling drought.
I then outlined some examples of global divestment campaigns and the strategies and tactics used in those, and the successes that came from those campaigns – did you know that New York recently divested $390 billion worth of its employees’ pension funds? We then got busy with the good stuff – talking about how we can move the divestment conversation in South Africa forward.
It was fantastic to hear about the steps that the people there had already taken – from asking their finance managers about divestment, to buying into investment houses in order to ask them to divest. There are very few real options for people in South Africa who are looking to divest from fossil fuels, two such options are a basket of shares on the Easy Equities platform, and a fund put together with WWF, although this is still not a fully divested fund. One step Fossil Free South Africa is taking to change this is their petition, asking asset managers to offer a divested fund. If you haven’t signed it already, please do!
At the event, the participants wrote a joint letter to Sygnia asset managers, explaining divestment and asking them to offer a divested fund. There is a sense that once one such fund is offered, other asset managers will follow. It was fantastic to see real action happening, with participants writing to asset managers and institutions in their own capacity on the day.
We heard more from FFSA management committee member Mellony Sparks about the divestment landscape in South Africa. Her presentation led to a number of interesting conversations around the mechanics of investing and divestment, green jobs and the social repercussions of divestment, as well as other environmental issues that we could take into account when talking about divestment.
FFSA outdid themselves by providing vegan pizzas and raw chocolate fudge for lunch. It was a fantastic event, and already there are plans for future ‘fests! We hope you’ll join us at one!
Feel like you missed out? FFSA has a range of easy actions you can take on their website – check them out. Our thanks to Glen for this summary of our event, and we include some of the feedback from participants below:
“Very stimulating questions and conversation! Really enjoyed it”
“I really appreciated the space: Connecting like minded people A quieter space would’ve been more pleasant or maybe just microphones. The seating arrangement could have been made more interactive”
“I think the content is so informative, necessary and interesting but perhaps adding elements of entertainment and having it later in the day could coax more people into joining.”
“A good session. Less jargon”
“You encouraged me to take action and get moving to lobby”
“I found the introduction to the cause and what you guys are going awesome. The practical approach to further our own campaign was also very cool.”
“It was a well informed group of people, so possible to take the conversation to another and needed level of detail that will inform advocacy action. Really important and thanks to organisers and contributors. Might be good to develop a basic alternative investor’s guide for divestors because most people just leave this sort of decision making to their advisors.”