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The Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) will this September join several other groups in the push for more favourable climate through investment on clean and renewable energy as opposed to fossil fuels.

Up to eight organisations are planning a major conference in South Africa this September to discuss and emphasise the need for more states to choose and invest on renewable energy.

This is considering that the world is building towards the greatest capital shift in history, from the fossil fuel past to the renewable energy future. With little time left before we lock in irreversible climate impacts, governments, investors and civil society must redouble their efforts.

The fossil fuel divestment and clean energy investment movement has emerged as one of the bright spots in the climate fight, mobilising trillions of dollars in service to the energy transition. To support this growing movement, the Wallace Global Fund, 350.org, GreenFaith, the Global Catholic Climate Movement, Divest Invest, the Shine Campaign, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, and Fossil Free South Africa are organising a Global Divest Invest Summit in Cape Town, South Africa this September.

As the birthplace of the anti-Apartheid divestment movement, South Africa has unparalleled symbolism and emotional resonance to serve as host for the summit. More broadly, the significance of the conference’s location in the Global South cannot be overstated: The fossil fuel industry is vying to be the engine of rapid economic development in the region at the same time that the climate crisis demands we leapfrog dirty energy in favor of clean, distributed renewable energy systems. This is especially poignant for the more than 1 billion people in the developing world, who still lack basic energy access.

The conference is expected to help build momentum for the global Divest Invest movement by convening cities, faith-based organisations, foundations and universities for an interactive program that provides tools and resources to align capital with climate goals.

Its organisers also expect to provide, through the conference, a platform for new Divest Invest announcements and for the release of a high-level statement from movement leaders challenging the global community to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

The other objective of the conference would be to showcase the movement’s increasing foothold in the Global South, underscoring the urgent need for investments that help developing nations leapfrog dirty development and provide clean energy access.

Since its launch by students as a call to climate action in 2011, the fossil fuel divestment campaign has become a rapidly growing movement that has mobilised trillions of dollars to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels and to support the clean energy transition. Today, more than 1,000 investors marshalling $8 trillion in assets have committed to divest, an increase of over 15,000% since 2014 when commitments stood at $52 billion. Increasingly, institutions are also tilting their portfolios towards climate solutions in renewable energy, efficiency, clean energy access and sustainable food and water programs.

The movement is having a material impact on the fossil fuel industry, as evidenced by the open admission by companies like Shell, that divestment poses a risk to their business, with the potential to impact share price and access to capital. Goldman Sachs recently said it “believes that the coal divestment movement has been a key driver of the coal sector’s 60% de-rating over the past five years.” Divestment campaigners around the world are pursuing sophisticated strategies targeting pension funds, insurance companies, cities, universities, faith groups and, most recently, asset managers.

Yet, while divestment remains dynamic and full of impact, the challenges are daunting: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently published a special report on 1.5 degrees that said civilisation had about a decade left to avoid catastrophic harm, adding that nothing short of “rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban infrastructure, and industrial systems” are needed now. While most countries in the world are committed to the Paris Agreement on paper, policies to support the clean energy transition often lag far behind the rhetoric.

Investors, with their trillions of dollars in assets, have the power to move faster than governments and catalyse the transition by shifting their capital out of the problems and into the solutions now. In so doing, they steer the backbone of politicians and policymakers to accelerate their own progress by giving them comfort that a mobilised constituency has their backs. Fossil fuel divestment and clean energy investment is more important than ever.

Why South Africa

South Africa is uniquely situated to host the conference, as divestment was used successfully as a tactic against the Apartheid government. The boycott and sanctions campaign raised awareness about the evil of the apartheid regime and built international solidarity. South Africa has played an influential role in the international climate talks, and hosted the 17th Conference of the Parties in December 2011. Cape Town is also significant as the first city in the Global South to have committed to divest from fossil fuels. Climate impacts are front and centre: Cape Town was recently brought to the brink by a severe water shortage brought on by a climate change-fueled drought. The country also recently suffered after heavy rains caused havoc in KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces, causing flooding and mudslides. Up to 80 lives were lost and many displaced to collective shelters. Several houses, religious structures and roads were also destroyed in the flooding that took place in May this year. Climate change was blamed for a lot of the losses incurred.

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