Fossil Free Wits – Our petition

Our call on Wits University to accelerate its response to the climate emergency, and take all possible steps to decarbonise, divest and disassociate itself from the fossil fuel industry.


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Wits University must adopt a clear climate emergency plan


The university has already taken many steps towards acknowledging climate and sustainability imperatives, which we applaud. The Vice Chancellor, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, has explicitly acknowledged that the world and South Africa face a climate emergency. The Wits community welcomes the university’s creation of the new office of Pro Vice-Chancellor for Climate Sustainability and Inequality. The new Pro Vice-Chancellor, Imraan Valodia, has acknowledged that climate transformation efforts must be accelerated to be meaningful.

This can only be the beginning. 

The global scientific community, including Wits scientists, has clearly and unambiguously said that the world has ten years to radically change our energy consumption if we want to avoid complete disaster. It is absolutely essential for Wits to play a leadership role in this, both in modelling how it can be done, and in working with the city, the region and the country, to facilitate a just transition. We know that our very survival depends on this. We know that the time to act is now, and that the window is rapidly closing. Government, business and individuals are still not providing sufficient leadership: it is essential for the university to provide leadership.

Our call

We therefore call on Wits and its subsidiary institutions to urgently step up its efforts towards climate justice, by developing and sharing a clear plan, with transparent and accountable targets, showing how it plans to change its energy use and investments in fossil fuels, in the ten-year window that we have. This must include:

  • Decarbonising the campuses over ten years, with interim three- and five-year targets (action: Wits administration)
  • Phasing out its investments in fossil fuels, as the University of Cape Town recently committed to doing (action: Wits investment managers and trustees)
  • Offering staff fossil fuel-free pension options (action: Wits retirement fund trustees)
  • Increasing our focus on climate in teaching and research (action: all academic staff)

We call on Wits management, as a matter of urgency, to develop plans for playing a leadership role in facilitating a just transition away from fossil fuels in the city and the region.

We call on Wits management to commit to ethical investing, and to making its investment processes transparent and accountable.

No costs of decarbonising now will come close to the costs in the next decades of failing to do so.

– Fossil Free Wits: Wits stakeholders supported and advised by Fossil Free SA.