On Tuesday 11 May, UCT students protested to urge the UCT University Panel on Responsible Investment (UPRI) to make the strongest possible recommendations on fossil fuel divestment.
After seven years of pressuring UCT to divest from fossil fuels, this marked a pivotal moment in the campaign.“If UCT values evidence-based decisions, it can no longer ignore the science and must embrace a new fossil free trajectory,” says UCT student, and Green Campus Initiative member, Christina Monteiro. “As the young people who will face the brunt of the climate crisis, we simply cannot accept the sluggish pace and opaque nature of UCT’s climate action.”
“Climate action and economic liberation for the majority of our population are not at odds with each other. Divestment is an opportunity for UCT to lead an Africa-centred agenda of justice and decolonisation,” says Dr Shari Daya, a senior lecturer in the Department of Environmental and Geographical Science.
The UPRI was formed in 2017 in response to the lobbying of the Fossil Free UCT campaign but was only formally launched on 22 April 2021. The UPRI has since indicated that it will be making recommendations on divestment to the UCT Council in September 2021, and has called for submissions on divestment to be made by 14 May 2021, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite UCT’s Convocation, which represents all alumni and academic staff, having voted three times in favour of divestment; thousands of students having signed petitions in favour of divestment, and many academic staff having written to the UCT Council urging divestment, there has not been any concrete commitments or action.
UCT students and the Fossil Free South Africa community urge the public to make submissions to the UPRI (email@example.com), and to the secretary of the UCT Council (firstname.lastname@example.org) in favour of UCT adopting the strongest possible divestment strategy.
“UCT’s continued investment in fossil fuels is fundamentally evil and morally corrupt,” says UCT Student and GCI member James Granelli, who represents the sentiments of more and more students who are coming to terms with the institutions part in funding the climate crisis.
Despite the difficulty of organising in the face of Covid-19 and the UCT fires (which may have been exacerbated by climate change), students representing the Green Campus Initiative, Fossil Free UCT campaign and Climate Justice Charter movement assembled outside the Bremner Building on 11 May, staged a die-in and met with UPRI chair Professor Tom Moultrie to hand over a memorandum of demands, before moving up to the Kramer Building Plaza to engage with other students and the Vice Chancellor.
The memorandum had the following demands:
- Complete direct and indirect divestment from fossil fuels in the institution.
- More transparent and accountable communication on where the institution’s fossil fuel investments lie
- The UPRI to be a non-partisan, transparent and independent body for advising the institution on sustainable investment and how emissions fossil fuels use may be mitigated.
- UCT to commit to complete decarbonisation of its operations by 2040.
- A Climate Change Commission to be set-up within the institution and for student groups that understand climate change and its impacts together with the university’s experts on climate change to be included in this commission
- A comprehensive plan for decarbonising the institution and divesting from fossil fuels to be drafted and be made publicly available.
- More policies that are responsive to the issue of climate change to be drafted within the institution.
In a post made on social media by Fossil Free South Africa after the protest, the organisation said “We are excited at the prospects of divestment at UCT gaining momentum, but we will not stop until UCT has fully divested from climate breaking fossil fuels! If you would like to show your support, please email email@example.com by this Friday, 14 May, latest to state your support for UCT divesting from fossil fuels.”