climate change

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

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.

HOW MANY ACTIONS CAN YOU TICK OFF?

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 https://goo.gl/t942Nd

Tweet: @OldMutualSA We are Ready to #DivestNow! Give us fossil-free investments for a safer climate & secure future https://ctt.ec/Vcf4o+

Tweet: @Stanlib We are Ready to #DivestNow! Give us fossil-free investments for a safer climate & secure future https://ctt.ec/Vcf4o+

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 350.org 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.

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.

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

Summary

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.

Presentations

Discussion

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…)