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.


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.

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’.


  • 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.

May Boeve of 350.org visiting Cape Town, UCT and Jozi

4077149923_d7123e93ef_bMay Boeve is the new executive director of 350.org, the grass roots global climate movement that three years ago initiated the fast-growing global divestment movement. She succeeds Bill McKibben who, together with 350.org, was a recipient of the ‘alternative Nobel prize’, the Right Livelihood Award for 2014. May, who was recently profiled by the Guardian, which hailed her as the ‘new face of the climate change movement’, is visiting South Africa over the next week, and will be speaking on several different occasions about the global climate and fossil fuel divestment movements:

  • Monday 11 May, 09h00–11h00: AIDC (129 Rochester Rd, Observatory, Cape Town) Session 1: Fossil fuel divestment and the global movement. Session 2: Climate justice in South Africa – information sharing session and presentation by Project 90×2030 on mobilization around the forthcoming AU Summit. (Please RSVP to either neoka@project90by2030.org.za or khomotso@350.org)
  • Monday 11 May, 17h00: University of Cape Town Upper Campus: Snape Building SNLT 1: Public talk on the global climate and fossil fuel divestment movements. (B4 on this map).
  • Tuesday 12 May, 12h45: A closed talk at Stellenbosch University, email via this Facebook link for details.
  • Wednesday 13 May 2015: 17h30 for 18h00, Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg: A divestment dialogue

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”.

Divestment Day is 13 February: join us at UCT

International Divestment Day is this coming Friday. Join us at UCT (details below). See other actions (comprehensive global list), such as Pretoria University (details below), or Stellenbosch.

Fossil Free UCT Bicycle Flash Mob And Human Microphone

Friday, February 13, 1:00 PM
Meeting point: Front of Centlivres Building (opposite Leslie Social Sciences), UCT Upper Campus, Rondebosch

We will meet with our bicycles in front of the Centlivres Building (opposite Leslie Social Sciences) on UCT Upper Campus at 1pm on Friday 13 February, and cycle to several different locations on campus to do a repeated short “human microphone” broadcast (see wiki for explanation) about the Fossil Free UCT campaign and why people should support us. Bring your bicycle, obviously. And please wear orange if you can. Estimated time: About one hour. Later in the afternoon, we will hang a banner over the M3. Contact: David: +27845220968.

More details and updates here:

Saturday, February 14, 10:00 AM Union Buildings, Pretoria, South Africa

We will be doing a photo stunt where we ask the South African public to divest from fossil fuels outside the office of our President at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. A photo stunt is a form of non-violent protest where you take a photo in an iconic location with your message depicted in the photo, so in this case: “SOUTH AFRICA DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS”.

This event will take place in the morning and should be done before lunch time. It is a powerful way in which you can make a difference in this, the year of climate action. Please come and join us wearing something orange, the colour of our movement. Bring your family, bring your friends, bring your neighbours and bring any signs supporting our cause. We will be meeting at the base of the Nelson Mandela Statue, look forward to seeing you there! See: http://act.350.org/event/gdd_attend/10061

Thundafund appeal closes

Our crowdfunding effort closed on 31 January. The funds raised will help make our work over the next few months more sustainable. Many thanks to everyone who contributed.

The world’s biggest investment fund divests

Norway’s giant sovereign wealth fund has dropped investments in coal, oil sands, cement and gold mining, citing the risks of climate change and other environmental concerns.

Local renewable energy divestment opportunity

A joint agricultural and renewable energy (RE) farm is being developed on an emerging farm in the Breede River valley by the owner, the Ashton Small Scale Farmers Trust (ASSFT) and a consortium of experienced small and medium sized German RE companies (IPD Power), in collaboration with the NGO TCOE (Trust for Community Outreach & Education) in Cape Town. 75 MW of solar capacity is planned, and 20 MW of wind energy capacity will later be added. The project is looking for potential shareholders. FFSA really likes the sound of this project, but please do your own due diligence. Details: IPD Power – Bonnievale Solar farm Information 0215 (pdf).


Fossil Free South Africa launches in Cape Town


Revd Mpho Tutu of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation

On Wednesday 12 November, we had our first of several launches for the expanded Fossil Free South Africa campaign at the Mountain Club in central Cape Town. Around 80 guests gathered to hear Mpho Tutu, director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, talk about her experience of the anti-apartheid divestment campaign of which her father, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, was a leader. She also outlined the profound injustice of climate change – that those least responsible for creating the problem are and will be most affected.

Anton Cartwright, the Mistra Urban Futures researcher at the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town spoke about climate impacts, the practicability of renewable energy as a replacement for ‘baseload power sources’ like coal and nuclear (it’s practical), and also passionately addressed the moral dimensions of the issue.

IMG_1265I (David Le Page) gave an in-depth account of the rationale for the campaign, and its international dimensions, Samantha Bailey gave the 350.org perspective and Rob Zipplies spoke about the nuts-and-bolts of our local efforts and fundraising, all of which are detailed on our Thundafund site. (Do contribute – we need funding to keep this work going.) An energetic question-and-answer session raised lots of issues and possibilities.

Anton Cartwright

Anton Cartwright

We certainly don’t have the answers to all the questions yet – a lot of research and work is still needed to clarify the possibilities for alternative carbon-free investments. But we’ve made a start. And one of our audience members has already drafted template letters that you can use to lobby either the UCT or other pensions funds for divestment! So please start firing off those letters.

Next week, Rob and I head off to host similar events around the country, starting in Bloemfontein and going on to Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. Please do share the details of those events with your friends in those cities!

Many, many thanks to everyone who supported this event, whether as guests, registrars, lighting assistants or wine donors (thanks again, Spier).

It was a busy week for us… on Thursday, I heard 25 students at the Raymond Ackerman Academy for Entrepreneurs at the UCT Graduate School of Business passionately presenting their research on the issue of whether or not UCT should be invested in fossil fuels. The forum was a debating club. There were dissenters who raised important questions and considerations, but most of the students are very much in favour of UCT divesting, pointing again and again to the university’s stature and claims to ‘values-based leadership’. Indeed, many seemed quite puzzled that UCT is invested in fossil fuels. Some interesting personal testimony came from a young man who had aimed to earn large amounts of money working on oil rigs, but had become disillusioned by the realities of the industry.Photo on 2014-11-13 at 1.16 PM

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“.

Letter to UCT requesting details of investments, mandates, etc

Dr Max Price – Vice-Chancellor

CC: Prof Crain Soudien – Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Transformation and Social Responsiveness

CC: Prof Enrico Uliana – Director of Finance

CC: Peter Grant

CC: Prof Mark New – Pro-Vice-Chancellor: ACDI

CC: Hugh Amoore – Registrar

30 September 2014

Dear Dr Price

Working together on UCT’s investment strategy

Thanks again for your email of 30 July acknowledging our Fossil Free UCT campaign launch.

We are happy to relate that the launch was very successful, with over 100 people attending. Students, academic staff and alumni were well-represented at the event and nearly 30 members of the university community signed up for a working group which has since had several meetings. (more…)

Events, screenings and our petition now online

GO FOssil free UCT posterPlease sign our petition, now online, calling on UCT to divest from fossil fuels and invest in sustainable energy!

Forthcoming events (download poster)

30 September, 1pm, CS203: Screening of Do the Math, documentary about global fossil fuel divestment movement

1 Oct, 1pm, Jammie Plaza: Forum discussion of divestment with the Collective

6 October, 1pm, CS203: Screening of Do the Math, documentary about global fossil fuel divestment movement

Why should UCT divest from fossil fuels and invest in sustainable energy?

As we already know, the world’s governments have – on paper – committed to keeping global warming beneath an average 2 degrees, at most. You may not know that that level of warming already holds enormous dangers for Africa in particular. What’s more, if fossil fuel companies burn all their current declared reserves of oil, gas and coal, we would greatly overshoot that target – pushing global warming well beyond dangerous levels. Governments are nowhere close to matching their declared targets with sufficient actions.

The world’s investors – like UCT’s endowment fund – now face a choice: either invest in fossil fuels, and be complicit in what is increasingly recognised as a crime against future generations. Or scale back fossil fuel investments, particularly in favour of reinvestment in renewable energy and other sustainable industries. Yet UCT, despite being a declared centre of excellence in climate change research, effectively endorses the first choice – because the university is at present invested in fossil fuels.

Over the past two years, a campaign for fossil fuel divestment has begun on literally hundreds of campuses around the world. Thirteen universities, hundreds of civil society organisations, and cities like Seattle have already decided to divest.

In New York this week as the UN held an emergency summit on climate change, hundreds of organisations and individuals, including the Rockefellers and the Church of Sweden, announced a new commitment to withdraw a collective $50 billion from fossil fuels.

But Graça Machel, our UCT chancellor, told the UN  “There is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response we heard here today. The scale is much more than we have achieved.” (Read the full text of her address.)

So – UCT has an amazing opportunity to become a leader in an international campaign that will go down in history. The question is, how quickly will you and the leaders of the university respond? Will UCT be a responsive, compassionate and visionary leader, or will future generations hold us responsible for funding organisations and businesses that are destroying Earth as a safe habitat for humanity?

UCT chancellor Graca Machel addresses the United Nations on climate change

UCT chancellor Graca Machel addresses the United Nations on climate change: “Leaders must have the courage to displease thousands to protect billions”

For more about the events in New York, see:

• Union of Concerned Scientists Supports Fossil Fuel Divestment

• Heirs to Rockefeller oil fortune divest from fossil fuels over climate change

• Climate change summit: world leaders told to ‘step up ambition’

• Five ways Ban Ki-moon’s summit has changed international climate politics forever

For an insight into the lives of people staring down the barrel of devastating climate change, please watch this short video about the lives of the islanders of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean.

If you’d like to explore the world of climate modelling, and how we know we can broadly trust the science of climate change, see this TED talk by climatologist Gavin Schmidt.