Our university divestment campaign
Fossil Free SA started with a letter asking UCT to stop investing in fossil fuels, and has expanded from there. The full timeline of this engagement is available here. Some key moments have been:
- 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.
Why universities must lead this 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 2020
- 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 Wits, UJ, Unisa, UWC, Stellenbosch and UKZN, 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 RFs to seed-fund three or four fossil-free and socially responsible investment funds.
- We’re hoping that UCT Vice Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng to request in her personal capacity as a beneficiary of the UCT Retirement Fund that it support this initiative, maybe just 3% of its C Portfolio, probably about R100m now.
- UCT to host a public event publicising these 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.