The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that “the next few years are probably the most important in our history” for taking action to avoid catastrophic climate change. But the pace of change in South Africa is far too slow: shareholders must demand more.

The IPCC has today released its report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels.

The report highlights that the 1ºC of warming that has already occurred is clearly manifesting itself “through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes”. The report emphasises that “every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems”.

It is still possible to limit warming to 1.5ºC, but “doing so would require unprecedented changes” and “the decisions we make today are critical in ensuring a safe and sustainable world for everyone, both now and in the future”.

However, neither the South African government, nor most of our corporate and financial sectors, are even acknowledging the extent or urgency of this risk, and they are certainly not taking robust steps to tackle it. Recent illustrations of this include:

It is now indisputable that climate change poses material financial risks for all investors. Pension funds in particular have a duty to invest in the long-term interests of their members, and should therefore be investing in a manner that stimulates and supports the transition to a low-carbon economy, and contributes to South Africa meeting its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

As the IPCC report makes clear, “the next few years are probably the most important in our history”. The pace at which South Africa is moving means that, if we continue as we are, we will completely miss this opportunity for meaningful, sustainable change.

Global institutional investors at the forefront of climate issues are publicly declaring that they will not support the allocation of capital which is incompatible with the Paris Agreement goals, and are demanding the following of their portfolio companies:

In contrast, most South African asset managers and institutional investors, including most of those which are signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment, do not include a clearly articulated position on climate change in their investment policy statements. In fact, you won’t even find the term “climate change” on many of their websites.

Climate change is not an “environmental problem”. It is a global threat to us all, and failure to take robust action now will ensure that we leave a legacy of disaster for future generations. This is a challenge which requires action from each one of us, and shareholders are in a powerful position to take action which can effect change.

You can start by simply asking your asset manager or pension board for its public position on climate change, and for details of the carbon footprint of your portfolio.

If you’re interested in taking action, but don’t know quite what to do, please contact us at and we’ll help!

Make a donation

Our work is only possible with the generous support of philanthropic funding and individual donations, which are tax deductible.

Every contribution helps us to keep doing what we do. Please consider making a donation and becoming part of the movement working to build a more just, equal and sustainable country.

Please email us at to request a section 18A Tax Certificate.

Donate via EFT Below are our bank details
Bank Nedbank
Account number 1172492603
Account type Business PAYU
Branch code 10134000
Branch name CPT Western Suburbs Metro BB

Scan the QR code below in your SnapScan mobile app to complete the payment