Divest Fest – local climate action


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 outOur 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.”


Announcing our first-ever Divest Fest (24 February, 9.30am at 75 Harrington St, Cape Town)

Desmond Tutu: People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change.

Welcome to 2018, and the slightly mad state of play in South Africa right now: Day Zero is rapidly approaching in Cape Town, while cities and institutions of the stature of New York and Lloyds of London (the world’s oldest insurance market) are divesting from fossil fuels – but South Africans still aren’t widely questioning why we allow companies like Sasol to continue pumping out enormous amounts of climate-breaking greenhouse gases without committing to science-based targets for reductions as genuinely responsible companies are doing.

So please save this date: On 24 February, Fossil Free SA, with 350 Africa, will be hosting our first Divest Fest, from 9.30am to 1.30pm, at 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town.

Click here to RSVP. Click here  to add to your calendar.

Divest Fest will be a morning of practical online climate and divestment action, with videos, mini-talks, brainstorming, and ample time to take practical action to push ahead fossil fuel divestment in South Africa (followed by lunch, possibly even with water!) More details to follow…

Bring your laptop or tablet, send us any suggestions you may have in advance, and let’s get stuck in demanding ethical, safe, low-carbon and divested investment funds.

And – if you haven’t already, please join the over-900 people who have already signed on to support our petition calling on top asset managers to create divested funds in South Africa.

Click here to RSVP. Click here  to add to your calendar.

Hope to see you soon!

David, Glen, Mellony, Ahmed, and the FFSA/350 Africa teams

Have your say on our energy future

1: Sign our Petition

Firstly, if you haven’t yet signed up to our Fossil Free SA petition calling for SA’s top asset managers to create fossil fuel free funds, please do so NOW.

Then, there are some key activities coming up in the next weeks for those who want to have their say in South Africa’s energy future, led by various coalitions, including the Campaign for a Just Energy Future, working to ensure that all South Africans have clean, safe, accessible and affordable energy.

2: Join public meetings and protests on Tuesday 21 November…


07h00–08h30: Protest against nuclear on the Roodebloem Road, Woodstock bridge into City.

09h30–12h00: Join the public observers when the Parliamentary energy oversight committee quizzes our latest energy minister on his dodgy plans. (Bring your ID to get into Parliament.)

14h00–17h00: Civil society leaders dialogue (Heinrich Boell Foundation,

3: … and Wednesday 22 November:

07h00–08h30: Picket in front of Parliament

09h00–11h00: Gather outside St Georges Cathedral

11h00–13h00: Political party public platform at St Georges Cathedral

14h00–17h00: Energy Justice protest at Parliament

For more info and updates from this campaign, please check or Or email Vainola Makan, vainola2 at

4. CPLO and Project 90 by 2030 discuss the Just Energy Transition

If you’re in Johannesburg on 28 November, you could join the Project 90 by 2030 Just Energy Transition Roundtable discussion on the topic of “Renewable Energy Jobs – The Reality and the Potential”. Please see this doc (pdf) for more details.


Divest Fest!

Our team is about to hit Rocking the Daisies, and this is what we’ll be asking festival-goers to do for the divestment cause –  here we list five quick ways you can take action right now to push South Africa towards a more safe and prosperous future and away from the deadly fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – that threaten our climate, our health and our savings.


Five quick and easy divestment actions (1–2 minutes)

Please work your way through this list of fast, easy actions.

ACTION: SIGN PETITION: Sign our “We Are Ready to Divest!’ petition: For a safer climate and secure future, tell the biggest SA investment managers – Allan Gray, Coronation, Investec, Old Mutual, Stanlib and the Government Employees Pension Fund – to offer funds divested from coal, gas and oil.

 ACTION: SIGN PETITION: Are you a University of Cape Town student, staff member or alumnus? Sign our petition calling on UCT to divest.

ACTION: SIGN PETITION: Are you a Stellenbosch student, staff member or alumnus? Sign Fossil Free SU’s petition calling on SU to divest.

ACTION: GET NEWS UPDATES: Sign up for the Fossil Free South Africa newsletter to get news and updates on our progress in divesting South Africa and abroad.

FF-logo SA Smallest.jpg

ACTION: DONATE: Become a once-off donor via Snapscan or register as a repeat donor to Fossil Free SA. Even just R20/R50 helps out. (You can read more about our young organisation here.)

And three Tweets!

Tweet: @Investec We are Ready to #DivestNow! Give us fossil-free investments for a safer climate & secure future

Tweet: @OldMutualSA We are Ready to #DivestNow! Give us fossil-free investments for a safer climate & secure future

Tweet: @Stanlib We are Ready to #DivestNow! Give us fossil-free investments for a safer climate & secure future

Keen for more? Click through to our full DIVEST FEST page.


July community update – SA’s first big climate change court case, and Disobedience

IMG_4313We held our second community update for 2017 at 75 Harrington Street on Wednesday 26 July, with around 25 guests attending. (75 Harrington is a community hub and co-working space in the heart of Cape Town; our thanks to Steve Harris and his team, our hosts.

After we’d reiterated the basics of our divestment campaign, Christine Reddell, from the Centre for Environmental Rights, spoke about South Africa’s first big climate change court case – which saw our Minister for the Environment ordered to consider the climate impacts of the proposed Thabametsi coal power station in deciding whether or not to authorise its construction. The judgment confirmed that the information in the initial environmental impact assessment was inadequate for fully assessing the likely climate impacts of Thabametsi. The Minister is now obliged to consider a full climate change impact assessment, and public comment, before proceeding to authorise – or not.

CER believes the judgment will make it increasingly difficult to authorise coal power in South Africa, given their unavoidable impacts, our high levels of vulnerability to climate change, and the availability of cheaper, lower-impact alternatives (wind & solar).

The Thabametsi case is important to our divestment campaign because most of our big SA banks – Nedbank (the ‘Green bank’), Standard Bank, ABSA, and Rand Merchant Bank – are funding Thabametsi with our savings and investment,  despite most having proclaimed their concern over climate change. It’s also funded by the Development Bank of South Africa, supposedly committed to sustainable development, and the Unemployment Insurance Fund – which means that if Thabametsi is approved but later becomes a stranded asset, jobless South Africans stand to lose out.

We also screened the documentary Disobedience, which tells the stories of communities standing up against fossil fuels around the world – in the Philippines, the US and Germany in particular.


May workshop for investors and fund managers: ‘Fossil fuel divestment: Fad, necessity or opportunity?’


On 10 May 2017, Fossil Free South Africa convened a workshop for financial services professionals in Cape Town on fossil fuel divestment. The aim of the workshop was to build awareness of climate and carbon risk – and the divest-reinvest movement – amongst financial services professionals, and to catalyse the creation of divested funds and instruments. Judging by broad responses, we succeeded in the first objective, but the second objective – creating new funds – will take a great deal more work, though hopefully the necessary conversations have started. (The background reading for this workshop appears here.) Some video excerpts appear here.



After the presentations, we divided into four groups for a deeper discussion of some of the issues that had been raised. The discussion was covered by the Chatham House Rule, and is observed in these notes. These are some of the broad points that arose: (more…)


UCT’s divestment think tank

This is the summary of the UCT divestment think tank held on 15 May 2017 at Hlanganani Junction, UCT.

Fossil fuel divestment in itself is a strong signal that will notify internal and external communities throughout all sectors, of serious engagement with the topic of responsible investment, future development and planning and transformative action. UCT has an opportunity to send a clear signal that the institution is concerned about the wider impacts of its investments and can lead responsible investment discussion and engagement in response to the climate crisis on the African continent.

Overall, there is consensus for the soon to be appointed ‘UPRI’ team (extended name unknown) to work actively towards a low carbon, responsible investment governance structure and policy document to be adopted at the University of Cape Town in response to the climate crisis. Made up of students, staff, executive members and experts, the UPRI will advise the Joint Investment Committee’s financial decision making.

It was pointed out by Dr Max Price that the meeting was missing representatives of the ‘anti-divestment’ argument to provide opposing ideas to the conversations.

The full report on this event can be read here (pdf).