The provincial Synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has announced their support for the fossil free divestment campaign by voting to divest. The motion passed by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) follows the leadership of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation’s vote to divest earlier on this year. Both institutions have taken the moral leadership on the call for divestment but are confronted with the lack of available fossil free investment portfolios in South Africa’s financial markets.
The field of ethical investment is maturing in South Africa, but in its current state, most Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) indices are embedded with traditional indices against a set of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) concerns. This means that fossil fuel or tobacco companies can foster ‘good corporate citizenship and promote sustainable development’ if they perform well on ESG factors. As a result, sustainability indices and funds often include unethical or morally ambiguous companies.
With demand for fossil free indices increasing in South Africa, campaigners at 350Africa, Fossil Free South Africa, University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch and the University of the Witwatersrand are calling on fund managers to create fossil free investment portfolios and support the leadership of ACSA and the Desmond Tutu Foundation to take on the moral leadership and negotiate the establishment of a new wave of ethical investments in the country.
At present, the South African energy context is dominated by coal. South Africa obtains almost 90% of its electricity supply from coal and 77% of its primary energy needs from coal. The negative impacts of coal are responsible for exacerbating damaging social and economic impacts on the environment and local communities. Government support for the fossil fuel industry remains high. Subsidies and tax breaks in support of fossil fuels encourage high consumption and production trends which promote lower costs for the fossil fuel industry.
We’re calling on banks, pension funds, universities, faith based institutions to stop funding fossil fuels and the destruction of land and livelihoods, increasing water scarcity and perpetuating environmental crimes, and demand divestment for more sustainable communities that can connect millions to clean electricity.
ACSA’s announcement has shown that divestment as a strategy for people and the climate is a steward of global solidarity and widespread moral opposition against the fossil fuel industry as divestment takes root in South Africa.