Updates

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 Amandla.mobi 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…

searle_1

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 Facebook.com/JustEnergySA or Twitter.com/JustEnergySA. Or email Vainola Makan, vainola2 at gmail.com.

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.

Two new South African divestment commitments

We’re delighted to announce that another two South African institutions have committed to fossil fuel divestment.

Two Catholic organisations, the Archdiocese of Cape Town and Catholic Welfare and Development (CWD), have made these commitments as part of a larger coalition of 40 faith institutions on five continents.

As our partners 350.org note:

This is a big moment for both the global divestment movement and faith community, and we need to keep this momentum going strong. This commitment well and truly quadruples the one announced in May, when nine Catholic organizations divested. We need to celebrate it and also seize the opportunity to build upon this moment.

In the words of Domenico Sorrentino, the bishop of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino:

“St. Francis (Pope Francis) encouraged us to live humbly, simply, and with true reverence for the Creator and Creation. Divesting from fossil fuels and making new investments in clean energy sources is our way of following St. Francis’s example.”

Pope Francis has prominently voiced his concerns about climate change and the fossil fuel industry. But while Vatican officials have acknowledged the call for fossil fuel divestment, the Vatican has not committed to divest its money from the industry that is destroying Creation — yet.

In the wake of this announcement, people from all over the world are uniting during the Season of Creation and urging the World Bank to stop financing fossil fuels and support for renewable energy instead. Please join and add your voice to the global call.

Now more than ever we need institutions to stand together on the right side of history against an immoral industry whose climate impacts we see and experience daily.

As we celebrate this inspiring show of moral leadership, let’s make sure the World Bank puts its mouth where its money is and stops funding the fossil fuel industry and climate disasters.

Another exciting dimension to this announcement is that no less than four African Catholic bodies are making divestment commitments: besides the South Africans, the St Patrick’s Missionary Society in Kenya and Sierra Leone Young Christian Student movement are, so far as we know, the first African institutions outside of South Africa to divest.

Further details

 

Cape Town to divest!

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille at a 2011 protest against the proposed 'Secrecy Bill'. Pic: David Le Page.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille at a 2011 protest against the proposed ‘Secrecy Bill’. Pic: David Le Page.

The City of Cape Town has committed to divesting from fossil fuels! Tucked away in a recent statement about the City’s green bonds, Mayor Patricia de Lille added:

I am taking this a step further and I have informed our Finance Directorate that we are going to divest from fossil fuel assets and companies in favour of greener and cleaner investments which are in line with our vision of a sustainable future. We are going to instruct investors looking after our money not to put our money into fossil fuel-related companies or for it to be used to fund the development of dirty and unsustainable projects. We want our investments to be aligned with our principles of resilience and sustainability.

Fossil Free SA, together with 350 Africa, has been campaigning for the city to divest since late 2016.

Also, following up on our May workshop, we’ve published an oped in Business Day on divestment: ‘Signs are the climate is right for divesting from the fossil fuel industry’.

Come to Fossil Free SA’s next community event on 26 July, 5.30 for 6pm, at 75 Harrington Street, Cape Town, to find out more about how you can join the global movement to divest from fossil fuels.

 

Kevin Coldrey: A personal South African divestment story

KevinColdreyI am an economist by training and worked in the industry for almost a decade before making the decision to change career paths. I am currently furthering my studies, this time focusing on climate change and sustainable development. I hope to use my experience in the corporate sector to drive the change that is needed, looking for ways to incentivise behaviour change financially.

Between 12 and 18 months ago I decided to divest out of fossil fuel-based companies as best I could. I was at the time invested in a resources unit trust in SA, a general equity unit trust in SA, a private share portfolio of SA stocks, and two separate offshore unit trusts.

The decision was based on two factors:

  1. I felt it was my responsibility to contribute to a low-carbon future, and
  2. the returns that I was earning through holding shares like Sasol was being hampered by the commodity downturn; and my outlook for the global energy economy was, and still is, that we will never see the same prices for fossil fuels as we had in the lead up to the global financial crisis because I believe we have turned a corner in renewable energy generation.

My divestment process was hampered by the limited options available to retail investors but I did the following:

  • I sold my holdings in the resources and general equity unit trusts in SA (the general equity unit trust included significant holdings in the likes of Sasol, Anglo American, BHP Billiton, etc).
  • I sold my private shares in fossil fuel-based companies.
  • I kept my two offshore investments as I wanted to hedge my exposure to the Rand which I still believe is due for a further devaluation.
  • I invested in the Nedbank Green Savings Bond which is a guaranteed fixed investment vehicle where all capital raised is earmarked for renewable energy projects in SA.
  • I bought shares for my private portfolio that I felt were less carbon-intensive and where I felt that they were operating in industries that will become more important in the future such as water and agriculture.

If you have a personal divestment story to share with us, please get in touch.

Coal, oil and gas investments to be phased out, UCT Convocation votes

2 Mar 2017, Cape Town: On Tuesday 28 February, the Convocation of the University of Cape Town overwhelmingly passed a non-binding motion – read the minutes of the meeting (pdf) – for the university to rid itself of all investments in fossil fuels within five years. Should the university council agree to this motion, it would make UCT the first African University to formally commit to divesting from fossil fuels.

Convocation is a statutory body of the university comprised of all graduates, vice-chancellors and academic staff, which can express opinions and selects six members of Council (the university’s highest decision-making body).

The divestment motion was proposed by David Le Page of Fossil Free UCT, Fossil Free SA and UCT’s own Ethical Investment Task Team. He reminded the gathering of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s 2014 call for UCT to phase out its fossil fuel investments. The motion was seconded by Dr Yvette Abrahams, who spoke of the severe impacts of climate change, especially on African women and vulnerable people, and urged the university to “practice what we teach”.

The UCT Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price, said he mostly supported the motion, but requested an amendment to the specific call for divestment within five years, arguing that it pre-empted the ongoing work of the Ethical Investment Task Team. His proposed amendment was narrowly defeated in a vote. Convocation then moved to pass the unamended version of the motion 107 to 25, with 15 abstentions.

Despite being non-binding, Convocation’s endorsement of divestment is significant, as it marks yet another call from the university community to the administration to align the university’s investments with its values. In November, students from the Green Campus Initiative and Climate Action Project met with the Vice-Chancellor to hand over 500 signatures from academics and students calling for UCT to divest.

Concerns that divestment could reduce the university’s income from its investments should not be dismissed, but unless the university discloses the content of its actual portfolios in accord with best practice for public institutions, have not yet been substantiated either. Fossil Free UCT urges the university to move to full disclosure, in accord with the draft recommendations of its own Ethical Investment Task Team, as soon as possible, to allow for more informed discussion of the matter.

Full text of the divestment motion passed by the UCT Convocation on 28 February 2017

The United Nations has called climate change “the largest, most pervasive threat to the natural environment and human rights of our time.” But international commitments to reducing carbon emissions still fall far short of what is needed to limit dangerous climate change. This  unprecedented danger to humanity has inspired a global ethical movement for divestment from fossil fuel companies. At the same time, current international commitments to reduce carbon emissions and rapid technological change have already led many fund managers to reconsider their investments in these potentially stranded assets, while a growing number of studies show that responsible investment portfolios typically offer returns on a par with or superior to, conventional investment portfolios.

The global movement for divestment from fossil fuels on both ethical and prudential grounds now includes over 40 UK and US universities, cities of the stature of Copenhagen, Melbourne, Seattle and Oxford, and the total value of funds that have committed to various forms of divestment now approaches $5 trillion.

Over the past three years, close to five hundred staff, students and alumni have called on UCT to divest, a call that has the strong support of the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, where the University’s climate change research is centred.

This motion commends the University and Council for establishing the Ethical Investment Task Team, and calls for urgent progress in completing the Task Team’s work, in fully disclosing the University and UCT Foundation’s investments in accord with best practice, and in opening the University’s investment decision-making process to representations from all interested parties.

The University’s mission statement commits us to the values of engaged citizenship and social justice. In accord with those values, we now move that the University makes a binding public commitment to phase out, at the least, over no more than five years, all investments in fossil fuel companies listed in the Carbon Tracker Top 200, seeking where advisable alternative investments in renewable energy. We also urge action in making UCT’s own operations and infrastructure more sustainable and carbon neutral.