fossil fuels

New research on the financial impacts of fossil fuel divestment

Our partners in 350 have shared some recent research on the financial impacts of fossil fuel divestment with us (thesis PDF,thesis summary PPT). This research was undertaken by Alison Shulz of the University of Kassel, Germany. It should be noted that the primary focus of the divestment-reinvestment campaign is on social impacts: discrediting the fossil fuel industry to remove their social license to operate. So financial impacts, where they exist, are in a sense a bonus. Here are some of the headline conclusions of the paper:

– The direct, short-term impact of divestment (if any)…

• Theoretically, a direct effect of divestment should result from limited risk sharing (Merton) and the fact that assets can only be sold at a discount (Miller)

• Empirically, announcement to divest from a specific company has no effect on this specific company’s stock price

• This effect is however present for coal firms which mainly operate in markets of the Global North

• Divestment announcements are found to have a negative impact on stock prices of the whole fossil fuel sector

• This effect is even more pronounced for financially motivated divestment and large divested sums

The long-term impact is still unclear.

It should be noted that this is an under-researched area. It’s our impression that this research does not include the likely additional positive impacts of capital which is diverted from fossil fuels directly into renewable energy or other ethical investments.

Fossil Free UCT campaign submits testimony on divestment to the UCT Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission

The aims of the UCT Institutional Reconciliation and Transformation Commission (IRTC) include making ‘recommendations on institutional culture, transformation, decolonisation, discrimination, identity, disability and any other matters that the university community has raised over the past 18 months, or may wish to raise in the future.’

In the light of this mandate of the IRTC, we offer a submission from the Fossil Free UCT campaign (which includes the Green Campus Initiative and Climate Action Project, supported by Fossil Free SA) arguing that the University of Cape Town needs to move quickly to ethical and responsible management of its investments. In particular, in the light of the massive human rights crisis posed by climate change, UCT must immediately adopt bold targets for ending its investments in fossil fuel companies.

Summary of recommendations

We note that UCT is to be commended for being the first African university to adopt a responsible investment policy, but that the university can and should act more whole-heartedly. UCT should become a pro-active and visionary leader on issues of ethical and responsible investment. It must take specific, urgent measures (outlined below in our recommendations) to end its tacit support of fossil fuel corporations, and initiate divestment from fossil fuels. It should also address other ethically questionable investments, such as those in tobacco, while accelerating work to reduce on-campus environmental impacts.

Continued inaction, especially as the divestment movement grows in SA, threatens to leave UCT looking tardy and unresponsive given how long it has been aware of the issues.

The full document, including detailed recommendations for action, can be downloaded here (pdf): Submission to the UCT IRTC from the Fossil Free UCT campaign

 

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.

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.

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…)