Updates

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 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.

UCT considering divestment, and other news

There’s been an amazing flood of news on the divestment front over the past couple of months – know that you are part of an extremely fast-growing movement.

First up, local news – following our promptings, and after our meeting with the UCT Vice Chancellor as Fossil Free UCT, the University of Cape Town has committed itself to an ethical investment strategy that may include fossil fuel divestment – and we have (again, as Fossil Free UCT) been invited to join the university’s task team looking into the mechanics of divestment. We’re cautiously excited about this development.

Fossil Free SA at the Renewable Energy Festival in Greenpoint, Cape Town

Fossil Free SA at the Renewable Energy Festival in Greenpoint, Cape Town

We’ve also had initial conversations with a local asset management company that has committed to looking into a fossil-free fund, and hope we can share more details soon. And we met with the public at the  WWF/AIDC Renewable Energy Festival on 28 March. Many thanks to the volunteers who helped manage our stand!

Incredibly, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has set aside ‘neutrality’ to also dive in and endorse the divestment movement. And the Guardian, one of the world’s great newspapers, has endorsed divestment and set up a petition (please sign up) calling on Bill Gates’ massive Gates Foundation and the UK’s Wellcome Trust to divest (yes, the Gates Foundation currently profits from climate-changing investments that contribute to the poverty they are supposed to be ending.)

Meanwhile, we’re having to take a few weeks to focus on more fund-raising, as current funds will be exhausted around September.

Take action now

• Fill in our supporters form, if you’ve not done so already
Donate (now with Snapscan option)
Sign the Guardian’s petition

Other news

Bill McKibben writes in the Guardian of how far and fast the divestment campaign has moved, and reminds us of the limited role of international negotiations, which tend to reflect change rather than creating it. In fact, some consider the climate negotiations a complete waste of time. The Guardian Media Group is putting its money where its mouth is, and also divesting.

The UK’s climate and energy secretary, Ed Davey, has also backed the divestment campaign, as have 2,000 – two thousand – academics dedicated to the struggle to end poverty: Academics Stand Against Poverty.

Now, here are 10 myths about divestment, put to rest by the Guardian. And five more, put to rest by Rolling Stone.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph outlines some of the increasing woes of the fossil fuel industry: “The International Energy Agency (IEA) says fossil fuel companies have spent $7.6 trillion on exploration and production since 2005, yet output from conventional oil fields has nevertheless fallen… the world’s leading oil and gas companies were sinking into a debt-trap even before the latest crash in oil prices.”

Also, the World Federation of Public Health Associations has called for “a rapid phase-out of coal” to “limit further global warming and prevent illnesses and deaths associated with air pollution”.

Fossil Free SA launches and updates

First, if you haven’t yet donated via our Thundafund appeal, please do so. We value your presence in our network more than your money, but we do need to fund this effort if we’re to make this work sustainable. As ever, if you haven’t yet filled in our Support form, please do so. If you’re associated with UCT, please sign that petition. And if you’d like to start a campaign at another university, please get in touch.

Now, on to some reports from our various launches, and some other news. Meanwhile, later this week, via a protest with 350 Africa outside Nedbank (yes, the ‘green bank’) over their coal funding, we’ll be in Howick (by invitation!) and Durban (tell your friends).

Pretoria

Our Pretoria event was at St Mark’s Church, Waverley, with guest speaker Simon Gear, former 50|50 anchor presenter and author.

At every event – Cape Town, Bloem, Joburg, Pretoria – we have been moved by people’s enthusiasm. The divestment campaign somehow excites people. Why? Is it because of the link to apartheid? That it is a bit edgy? That we are taking on the dirty fossil fuel industry on their own terms (money)? That it is rapidly growing globally? That it is supported by amazing moral leaders such as Archbishop Tutu? All of the above? Irrespective, it is a wonderful thing to grow a movement amidst such palpable enthusiasm and support.Pretoria FFSA launchEach event differs and our venue this time was without electricity, but using oil lamps and a series of extension cables from a kindly neighbour for the projector, we got going with gusto in low-carbon mode.

Simon Gear, our guest speaker, kicked off the evening explaining that “everything scientists say we should do to combat climate change, we should be doing anyway”. For example, shutting down coal mining and coal-fired power stations would also have massive benefits for human health, water quality and quantity, and biodiversity. He emphasised that these reasons alone – climate change aside – would justify a rapid switch to clean energy. And of course using renewable energy creates more, safer jobs. Simon expressed his excitement about the global divestment campaign and it being an effective lever for real change. (more…)

Fossil Free updates

• Our full November launch schedule is now available. Check the list for details of launches in Cape Town (Nov 12), Bloemfontein (, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. Please tell your friends in those cities.

• Our Thundafund campaign fundraising to support our work over the next year is now live. Please consider contributing and forwarding to friends. And watch the video we created.

• Our first ever ‘divestment dinner’ was held on Wednesday 22 October. Seven guests watched Do The Math, and then discussed the divestment strategy. A template letter for writing to investment managers requesting fossil free investments was distributed. Participants were invited to register support for Fossil Free SA. Salad was eaten. (more…)

Fossil Free South Africa – Jo’burg launch 20 November

Johannesburg launch: 20 November 2014

Time: 17h30 for 18h00

Venue: St Francis Anglican Church, 44 Tyrone Avenue, Parkview

Keynote speakers: TBC

Why: The danger of climate change is accelerating. But fossil fuel companies are still hell-bent on burning five times as much oil, gas and coal as the Earth can safely absorb. Meanwhile governments are failing to meet their own targets for cutting emissions. So how do we ordinary people of the world secure our human rights and our future? A fast-growing international movement says the answer is going after what fossil fuel companies care about most – their profits. As Fossil Free South Africa, we’re asking universities and investors of all stripes to withdraw investments in fossil fuels and redirect it to the clean energy revolution. It’s just the right thing to do.

We’ve been working at UCT for a year on this campaign. Now it’s time to fundraise, scale up and go nationwide.

Attend our launches across SARegister your support. Please RSVP here and pass on this invitation.

Endorsed by: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, UCT Green Campus Initiative, SAFCEI, 350 Africa, Earthlife Africa, Treasure the Karoo Action Group and others.

Save the date! Our Cape Town launch on 12 November

Pacific Islanders and Austrlians try to block coal shipsFrom our roots at UCT, Fossil Free South Africa is fundraising and scaling up with launches planned across South Africa in November.

Our Cape Town launch will be on Wed 12 November at 17h30 for 18h00, with Revd Mpho Tutu confirmed as our keynote speaker. Please RSVP on our Events Page, which you can watch for details. More details and blizzards of publicity, etc, to follow.

Want to watch some truly inspirational direct climate action? Here’s a 2-min video of Pacific Islanders whose homelands are threatened by climate-related sea-level rise, paddling their canoes to block ships at a gigantic Australian coal terminal. Of course, many Africans are also already losing home to sea-level rise.

PS: Pregs Govender, former MP and deputy chair of the SA Human Rights Commission has just endorsed our campaign in her personal capacity.

 

 

Upcoming video shoot, Glasgow divests(!), and other news

Fossil Free UCT and GCI meet with the Collective to discuss divestment

Fossil Free UCT and GCI met with the Collective on 1 Oct to discuss divestment

Super important points

• We are shooting a video to support fundraising to expand this campaign. If you can spare us a couple of hours of your time on Saturday 25 October, please let us know. Email david.lepage@gmail.com for details. The video will also serve as a promo for the campaign, especially at UCT.

• Our next working group meeting will be in Centlivres 3.29 at 5pm on Tuesday 21 October. It will be preceded by a 4pm  mini-training session – a chance to talk through and learn more about the campaign issues.

• Don’t forget to sign our UCT petition, if you’ve not done so already. And please register your support.

Other news

• On November 25 at lunchtime, there will be a screening of Do the Math in the Health Sciences Faculty, Medical Campus.

• Fantastic news – as you may already have picked up, Glasgow University has divested, the first university in the UK to do so.

• ‘Be afraid. Be very afraid.’ That’s how Business Spectator Australia summarises the message to fossil fuel interests from a new report by international investment bank UBS.

Investment bank UBS says in a new report that, following a series of meetings with clients, it sees the fossil fuel divestment campaign as significant and potentially effective. “Many of those engaged in the debate are the consumers, voters and leaders of the next several decades. In our view, this single fact carries more weight than any other data point on the planet for this issue,” UBS said in the report out of London.

• The Australian National University has dropped some of its dirtiest fossil fuel investments: ‘The Council of the Australian National University has agreed to the proposal by vice-chancellor professor Ian Young to drop the multi-million dollar investments following an investigation by independent research organisation CAER. The university will divest its holdings in Iluka Resources, Independence Group, Newcrest Mining, Sandfire Resources, Oil Search, Santos and Sirius Resources. The $16 million divested stocks represent about 5.5 per cent of the university’s Australian equity holdings and about 1 per cent of its total investment holdings.’

• Speaking of Australia, here’s some Aussie black humour on the subject of the coal industry.

Writing in the Guardian just before the UN Climate Summit, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has reiterated his divestment call: ‘Reducing our carbon footprint is not just a technical scientific necessity; it has also emerged as the human rights challenge of our time… The most devastating effects of climate change – deadly storms, heat waves, droughts, rising food prices and the advent of climate refugees – are being visited on the world’s poor. Those who have no involvement in creating the problem are the most affected, while those with the capacity to arrest the slide dither.’

• Demonstrating the instability of economies based on fossil fuels, falling oil prices are “sending economic and political shockwaves around the world“.