Fossil Free South Africa and 350 Africa congratulate the City of eThekwini/Durban on becoming the second South African city to commit to phasing out investments in climate-breaking fossil fuels.
The eThekwini commitment was announced in late September, when the Mayors of Durban and Cape Town joined a group of 12 mayors from North America, Europe and Africa who promised “to shift their money out of fossil fuels and into green energy, buildings, transport and other investments to help them recover from the pandemic and tackle climate change.” Media reports noted that eThekwini has embedded its divestment commitment in a new climate action plan.
eThekwini is the second South African city to commit to fossil fuel divestment. Cape Town was the first, making its commitment in June 2017. This kind of leadership by cities is particularly vital given the failure of national governments to lead on climate. South Africa’s own current greenhouse gas emissions reductions commitments fall far short of the obligations it assumed when it ratified the 2015 Paris climate treaty; and are repeatedly undermined by massive continuing subsidies for the fossil fuel industry and support for the coal industry in particular.
Quotes from key spokespeople
“Our congratulations come with a caution. In the three years since Cape Town made its divestment commitment, we have heard nothing that suggests it has yet done anything to actually move money out of fossil fuel-compromised investment instruments. We suggest journalists ask Cape Town city managers tough questions on that issue.” – David Le Page, Coordinator of Fossil Free South Africa
“For eThekwini’s commitment to be meaningful, it should now: Report on its current investments and where they fall short of the new ethical standard it has set itself; Call on asset managers to offer new socially responsible investment options; Commit to regular updates on its progress towards full divestment; and Commit to collaboration with other progressive investors in South Africa. Without such collaboration, true progress on these issues is unlikely. We very much hope to see eThekwini take these steps. We are ready to support committed dialogue amongst SA cities adopting truly socially responsible investment policies. We will be calling out those who fall
short.” – Glen Tyler-Davies, SA Team Leader of 350Africa.org
Background on divest-invest
Climate breakdown continues. The main cause of climate breakdown is the burning of fossil fuels: coal, gas and oil. Global efforts to stop climate breakdown by governments are completely inadequate. Fossil fuel companies now claim to accept the reality of the climate threat – but all continue to emit far more warming gases than is ‘safe’. These companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating confusion about climate science, and greatly exaggerate their paltry renewable energy commitments in their marketing. They pay fortunes to lobbyists working to water down climate regulations and sometimes actively corrupt government officials who should be protecting the public. In response, the global fossil fuel divestment movement has grown to encompass assets worth over $14 trillion dollars (see the full list of commitments here). Over a thousand cities, universities, foundations, pension funds and religious institutions have made commitments to ending their fossil fuel investments. These institutions include the cities of London, New York, Paris, Melbourne, Cape Town, European insurance giant Axa; and most recently,
Cambridge University. This movement began as a moral movement to demonstrate that fossil fuel companies have become systematic human rights abusers, but has also begun to affect the cost of capital for fossil fuel companies.
A substantial body of evidence now suggests that investors who incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns in their decision-making can achieve better or similar returns to those who ignore them. For example, European sustainable funds yield average returns of 6.9% per year, compared with 6.3% for traditional funds, according to investment
About 350 Africa and Fossil Free SA
350.org is an international movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all. 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and other 350.org leaders helped launch the global divestment movement around 2011.
Fossil Free South Africa is a registered NGO that has been working in South Africa since 2014 to promote fossil fuel divestment and positive reinvestment in companies and activities that uphold human rights and science-based commitments to ending climate breakdown. 350Africa.org and Fossil Free SA were among the co-hosts of Financing the Future, the 2019 global divestment conference held in Cape Town.