Start or support a fossil fuel divestment campaign at your own SA university

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Background

Fossil Free SA’s story began in 2013 when we asked UCT to divest. See our UCT campaign, and read the full timeline of that engagement. Some key moments for the UCT campaign have been:

  • In August 2021, UCT’s University Panel on Responsible Investment, which was founded in response to our activism, recommended that UCT divestment from fossil fuels.
  • The UCT Convocation has now voted three times in favour of divestment.
  • The UCT Council agreeing to establish an ethical investment task team in 2015.
  • Student-led Divestment Think Tank in 2017 with participation of then-VC Dr Max Price and outside experts
  • Convocation passing a motion in support of divestment in early 2018.
  • Convocation passing a second motion in support of divestment in early 2018
  • Establishment of the University Panel on Responsible Investment in 2018, and
  • Support from the new Vice Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, for the principle of divestment in November 2018.

Are other SA universities considering divestment?

  • The issue is firmly on the agenda at Wits, following a vigorous campaign starting in 2021 led by Wits academics and supported by Fossil Free SA.
  • As of late 2021, we are hoping that a campaign for divestment will begin at the University of Pretoria.
  • A past campaign for divestment by Stellenbosch University is not currently active.

Why universities should lead in the divestment movement

Universities are the institutions that lead the research outlining the scale and severity of the climate crisis. Many universities have their own pools of invested capital, their endowments. We are (and have been for a long time) in a climate crisis. For universities to continue investments in fossil fuels is like doctors smoking in front of their patients – it is the people we should most be able to rely for leadership giving exactly the wrong signals to the rest of society.

Conversely, universities have an amazing opportunity to lead the transformation of the South African investment sector. Universities have already led the global divestment movement and half of all UK universities have committed to some form of divestment.

What we want to see from SA universities in 2022

  • We hope to see UCT begin its divestment journey, and for Wits, University of Pretoria and University of Stellenbosch to now make similar divestment commitments.
  • We want the Joint Investment Committee of UCT to divert R300 million, less than 5% of the current endowment, to seed-fund a new fossil-free and socially responsible investment fund.
  • We want UCT to work with other SA universities, saying that UCT is committed to seeding at least one very low carbon investment fund – but would like to go a step further and unite to pool R1 billion from your respective endowments and any visionary retirement funds to seed-fund three or four fossil-free and socially responsible investment funds.
  • We’d like UCT to host a public event publicising divestment efforts and extending the challenge to SA philanthropies, estimated to hold between them anything up to R30 billion. Challenge them to pledge 5% of their respective portfolios to this new asset class.
  • Put out a general call to SA asset managers challenging them to compete for a slice of the resulting available capital pool.