100 signatures reached
To: Stellenbosch University Rector's Management Team
Stellenbosch University, Act Now on Climate Change by Divesting from Fossil Fuels.
Stellenbosch University holds close to R6 billion in investments, known collectively as an endowment. SU directs the profits from its endowment into running the university. SU has an appreciable sum of its endowment invested in fossil fuel companies. Fossil Free Stellenbosch, a climate change advocacy group on campus, is calling on the university to divest from fossil fuels, with the logic that if it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. Divestment is the opposite of an investment – it means getting rid of stocks, bonds, or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. We ask that Stellenbosch University:
commit to divestment from fossil fuel companies, which means to immediately freeze any new investments in fossil fuel companies, and;
divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within three years.
A definition of fossil fuel companies entails the six South African primary or secondary stock exchange-listed fossil fuel companies that feature in the top 200 companies globally, as ranked by the carbon content of their proven fossil fuel reserves:
Anglo-American, BHP Billiton, Glencore-Xstrata, Sasol, Exxaro and African Rainbow Minerals.
Fossil fuel divestment takes the fossil fuel industry to task for its culpability in the climate crisis. By naming this industry’s singularly destructive influence — and by highlighting the moral dimensions of climate change — we hope that the fossil fuel divestment movement can help break the hold that the fossil fuel industry has on our economy and our governments.
Why is this important?
Human influence on the planet, including climate change, have resulted in the proclamation of a new geological age, the Anthropocene. We see signs of this exit from the comfortable Holocene with 15 of the 16 full years since 2000 being the hottest on record, and the last three years each in turn smashing the record for hottest. It is not hyperbole to state that we are entering uncharted territory, at an unprecedented rate. The face of the earth is changing rapidly, forcing scientists to constantly reassess and update their predictions. Whether methane bubbling up due to thawing permafrost, or radiative forcings and the instability of the West Antarctic ice shelves, the unknowns are too potentially devastating not to practice the precautionary principle.
Already, in many parts of the globe, and particularly in Africa and the Middle East, through natural disasters, extreme weather and altered climate patterns, climate change interacts with existing ethnic tensions and poor governance to give rise to conflict, migration, hunger and poverty. Due to its nature, climate change remains most invisible as a driver of human misery, and as any good physician will tell you, we should take the approach to focus on the disease, in addition to the symptoms - by moving our money out of the fossil fuel economy. The fossil fuel industry has over four times the stocks on its books that are considered safe to burn, using the 2'C threshold at which scientists predict feedback loops will initiate runaway climate change, and a rise in temperatures that will result in a planet that “…is incompatible with an organized global community, (and) is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’…”, according to climate scientist Kevin Anderson. This makes it a rogue industry, one whom we must see shut down, in order that the bulk of their reserves stay underground.
There is a rapidly closing window for meaningful action on climate change, with 19 years remaining under current emissions rates to have a 66% chance of remaining within 2'C, and given the enormity of the task of replacing and adapting global infrastructure, requires a speedy transition away from fossil fuels. A new report by The Potsdam Institute on Climate Impact Research, Carbon Tracker and Yale University suggests that unless the current global emission level of 39 gigatonnes of CO2 per year begins to ambitiously decline by 2020, any chance of keeping global warming within 1.5'C and 2'C agreed at Paris, will be “all but unachievable”. Needless to say, the Sustainable Development Goals will be wishful thinking under a scenario of breached limits.
Any argument to retain fossil fuel investments to power economic growth is outdated and heavily outweighed by the moral case, as represented by a death toll of 400 000 a year by 2012 (primarily through food shortages and illness), and set to rise to 700 000 a year by 2030 (Climate Vulnerability Monitor). Coal pollution, by 2012, was causing an additional 4.5 million premature deaths each year. New research is raising the forecasted death toll from climate change every year, as scientists develop novel ways to measure, model and map climate impacts.
To fulfill its stated mandate of being future-focused and innovative, our university must climate-proof their students futures, which means taking their money out of fossil-fueled climate chaos.
How it will be delivered
The signatures will both be emailed and delivered in person. If the university administration concedes to our demands before we have an opportunity to do so, the petition will transform into a thank you note from all those who have signed.