Event summary: The climate crisis, the labour movement and fossil fuel divestment

On 16 March, as guests of our co-hosts from the International Labour Research and Information Group (ILRIG), we presented a talk on climate issues as they may pertain to the labour movement at Community House, Salt River, in the Imam Haron Hall.

Our fundamental point was that for better or worse, even with the best will in the world, fossil fuels can no longer be a source of true prosperity; and that real prosperity demands that we move as fast as possible to a fossil fuel-free, circular and sustainable economy based on deeper equality, democracy and human rights culture.

We believe this echoes the views of the union movement in many respects; for example, the commitment of COSATU, which calls for an end to the dominance of the minerals-energy complex in its recently issued Blueprint for a Just Transition.

Ways forward

As we mentioned during the event, we are not experts within the labour space, and very much open to listening and learning. We welcome your frank comments, questions and insights; together, we can hopefully advance together to a more socially just, equal and sustainable South Africa.

Our suggestions for action in solidarity going forward:

  • Let’s communicate about and discuss these issues more. We would welcome opportunities to present and discuss these matters in labour movement forums.
  • Union investment companies could be leaders in the ESG (environment – social – governance) investment debate in South Africa; and we would welcome introductions to these companies.
  • If you have a retirement plan with one of SA’s bigger asset managers (Allan Gray, Coronation, GEPF, Ninety One, Old Mutual, Sanlam, Stanlib), please think about signing on to our #InvestFossilFree campaign, calling for fossil fuel-free investment options from SA’s top asset managers. (Watch a short 3-min video outlining the logic of the campaign here.)
  • Please avail yourselves of all possible opportunities to lobby government and political parties for an accelerated just energy transition that is fully cognisant of the global climate emergency.