fossil fuel divestment

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.

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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…)

Latest newsletter: UCT march planned for 11 Oct, and other news

UCT campaign ongoing, divestment march on campus on Tuesday 11 October

Our continuing campaign at UCT has moved the university to develop a draft ethical investment policy. If approved, that policy will create the channels for UCT to consider a commitment to divestment. The university’s ethical investment task team meets again this Thursday. 

  • To keep up the pressure on UCT, we are planning a march calling again on the university to divest. The march will start at the ACDI building at 1pm on Tuesday 11 October. Mpho Tutu, daughter of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, has indicated she will do her best to attend and support. Note: Unfortunately, due to the closure of the UCT campus, this march had to be cancelled.
  • In preparation, there will be a screening of the 350.org divestment documentary Do the Math on Monday, 12 Sept at 6pm, EGS studio 1. (All welcome, please bring snacks.)

Divest-Reinvest webinar hosted by Global Catholic Climate Movement

For those who would like to learn more about divestment, the Global Catholic Climate Movement is hosting an online webinar tomorrow at 2–3.30pm SA time. You don’t have to be Catholic to register, and while there’ll no doubt be a faith-based angle to it, lots for all of us to learn. Register here.

General news

  • Later this year (details TBC), we are planning a workshop on how South African investors can start finding ways to divest, and how we can push for ethical/divested options in South Africa. Please get in touch if you wish to contribute, or suggest contributors.
  • 350.org is hosting a national student summit on divestment in Johannesburg later this month (UCT students are attending.) Contact Ahmed Mokgopo (ahmed@350.org) for details.
  • The most recent university to divest is the Queensland University of Technology, which announced its plans last Friday. As ever, Jeremy Leggett provides excellent updates on the progress of the ‘Carbon War’.

Reminders 

  • If you’re associated with UCT and would like to publicly endorse the 2015 letter of the UCT ACDI Masters Class urging divestment, please read and sign up
  • We have 18A tax exempt status now – please consider starting a R50 or R100 monthly stop order in our favour. Our deep thanks to those who have already done so. Please contact Rob (robzipplies@gmail.com) for a tax certificate. 
  • If you’d like to set up your own campus divestment campaign, please contact us, or consult this useful starter guide.

How Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has started divestment

Our thanks to friends in WWF Norway for this information: highlights from Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund’s first responsible investment report. Note that while fossil fuels are the headline item, other divestments are based on mining damages, deforestation caused by palm oil plantation planting, and abuse of water rights.

1) On climate change:

– Conducted a GHG analysis of companies in its equity portfolio for the first time in 2014
– Divestment from 21 coal, tarsand and cement companies based on GHG emissions (2014)
– Divestment from 14 coal mining companies based on the vulnerability of the high-carbon intensity of the coal itself, and environmental degradation caused by mountain-top removal and deforestation (11 in 2013, 7 in 2014)
– Accounts for risk of climate change regulation to fossil fuel companies, and starts to do so for impact of fossil fuels on climate change
– Climate change is one of three new focus areas (with children’s rights and water management)
– Accounts for new increase in renewable energy & energy efficiency investments (small and only in stocks, but is noted as a mandate)
– New green bond mandate accounted for in 2014

2) Other highlights:

– Divestment from 16 gold-mining, 17 general mining and 27 palm oil companies based on environmental degradation, human rights, water rights, and transparency (2012-2014)
– In 2014, divested from 49 companies total based on social & environmental risks

Happy new year; please support our Thundafund appeal; also, 300 profs ask Stanford to divest

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABest wishes for 2015, everyone.

Key campaign news:

• Firstly, our Thundafund appeal expires on 31 January – please donate if you can, spread the word and the link, share on Facebook, etc.

• Secondly, our first UCT working group meeting of the year will be at 5.27pm, on 27 January, in Centlivres 3.29.

And in other news:

• Stanford has already committed to divesting from coal: and now, ‘three hundred professors at Stanford, including Nobel laureates and this year’s Fields medal winner, are calling on the university to rid itself of all fossil fuel investments’. So far, not one professor at UCT has stood up to follow suit. Come on, UCT profs!

• This last Friday, we had an article about our campaign in the Mail & Guardian.

This is a great if somewhat alarming analysis in Truthout of the impact of plummeting oil prices on the fossil fuel bubble of which fracking has been a big part.

• We were profiled in Business Day towards the end of last year, which is great.

• Here’s a report about 350 Africa’s Fossil Free Africa campaign – we joined their Nedbank protest in Johannesburg a few weeks ago.

Australian musicians are backing divestment.

• One divestment sceptic has offered an interesting proposal for reducing university emissions: a campus carbon trading system. We disagree with him about the value of divestment, obviously, but the campus carbon trading system is worth looking into.

• California is the world’s eight largest economy – and the leader of the state senate is considering legislation forcing all state pension funds to divest from fossil fuels.

Durban and Howick launches

Our audience, In between multiple power cuts at Howard College UKZN in Durban

Our audience, visible between multiple power cuts during our final 2014 launch at Howard College UKZN in Durban

Durban

The first Fossil Free South Africa road trip came to an end last week In Durban, where we had the pleasure of local Goldman Prize winner Desmond (Des) D’sa addressing the audience before our talks. Des is co-founder of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and has for about two decades fought to protect its 300,000 people from the health and environmental impacts of large industry located in the area. In case you didn’t know this, South Durban is also commonly referred to as “SA’s toxic hub” or “cancer valley”. In his talk he described some of the impacts and how community members have suffered and continue to suffer from toxic industrial emissions. A study has shown that children from a school near the two large oil refineries have some of the world’s highest asthma rates. He also mentioned the fact that most senior and top business managers in the South Durban area drive home each day to their cleaner, safer suburbs. Bottom line: Fossil fuels are just a bad idea on so many fronts.

Following our presentations we entered into a lively debate about divestment, which was not so much centered on the If and Why, but the How. We hope to see university and other divestment campaigns popping up in Durban next year.

Thank you to the Centre for Civil Society for providing a venue at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban), and to the many Durbanites who spread the news of our event and who attended.

Howick

Which SA town has the highest proportion of passionate environmentalists? Undoubtedly Howick, (and surrounding KZN Midlands)! We didn’t plan to stop there prior to our Durban launch, but were told that had better change! And very glad we were to slot in another event. Rarely have we seen a community so engaged in the crucial issues of our time and really “living the change” we need to see. Thank you for your enthusiasm and all-round support. And also thank you to Dovehouse Organics who hosted the group and put on the most scrumptious of vegetarian dinner, largely sourced from their beautiful permaculture gardens.

Divestment discussed at the World Student Environment Network 2014 Global Summit in Stellenbosch

A representative of Go Fossil Free South Africa addressed student delegates from around the world on the subject of fossil fuel divestment during the World Student Environment Network 2014 Global Summit in Stellenbosch on 4 July.