We are happy to present our 2016 annual report (link to PDF), a review of our activities for the past year:
2017 saw the world both advancing and retreating on climate issues. The year started with the encouraging news of the landmark Paris agreement on climate change, which entered into force in November, years ahead of schedule; and ended with the election of a climate denier to the US presidency, and news that global warming in 2016 had already come close to the 1.5 degree boundary the Paris agreement was supposed to establish.
The renewable energy revolution continued largely unabated, while the international divestment movement expanded to cover $5,4 trillion in total assets (total value of funds divesting, not capital divested).
Fossil Free South Africa continued our work to expand awareness of the dangers of the fossil fuel industry – and raise the profile of possible divestment – in South Africa, largely in our key campaign at UCT, which is now close to adopting a responsible investment policy. We are now exploring the possibility of establishing our own vanguard fossil-free fund, and hope to hold a workshop in early 2017 to encourage local financial services companies to start thinking along similar lines.
Plans for 2017
Our key plans for 2017 include:
- Continuing our keystone campaign for UCT to divest, as well as other SA universities.
- Hosting a workshop (funding now confirmed) for SA fund owners and managers on carbon risk management and progressive/responsible/ethical investment in South Africa. Current enlisted partners include the Centre for Environmental Rights and 350.org. WWF has offered support in kind.
- Working to establish our own decarbonised fund in partnership with Delta 4.
- Building our Fossil Free SA supporters community through quarterly public meetings.
If further funding materialises:
- Expanding engagements with financial services companies.
- Building links with other organisations working for environmental justice in the fossil fuel sector, which may include exploring and supporting legal challenges to government’s current energy policy.
- Employing research, activist and marketing staff.
On 21 November, students from the UCT Climate Action Project and Green Campus Initiative met with Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price to hand over in person the various letters and petitions calling for UCT to stop investing in climate change.
- The most recent 2016 Renewed Call for UCT to divest (click if you’d still like to add your signature), endorsed by the Climate Action Project, Green Campus Initiative, Fossil Free UCT and the United Nations Association of South Africa UCT Chapter; and also signed by 83 individuals.
- The 2015 ACDI Masters class call on UCT to divest: “Development of a fossil fuel divestment strategy for UCT”, signed by the Class of 2015 Masters in Climate Change & Sustainable Development University of Cape Town; the Class of 2015 Masters in Environment, Society and Sustainability University of Cape Town; with “strong endorsement” from the Environmental and Geographical Sciences Department.
- The original 2013 Fossil Free UCT petition: “UCT to divest from fossil fuels and invest in sustainable energy”, with 395 signatures, and counting.
Dr Price received the letter and our concerns with attention, but also called for more leadership from students on campus on these issues. He said that he would work to push forward the work of the university’s ethical investment task team, and agreed to a proposed half-day solutions think tank session with VC, Council, academic chairs, experts and students next year to strategise around divestment.
Well done to everyone for their persistence and initiative!
The campaign for fossil fuel divestment and the work of Fossil Free SA has been covered in an article in earthworks magazine.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.