You are currently viewing our desktop site, do you want to download our app instead?
Moneyweb Android App Moneyweb iOS App Moneyweb Mobile Web App

NEW SENS search and JSE share prices

More about the app

Intergovernmental panel pleas for real, urgent action against climate change

‘If we continue to cling to coal, if we fail to come up with a credible transition plan [SA is] going to be very unattractive from a competitiveness point of view globally’: Tracey Davies of Just Share.

SIMON BROWN: I’m chatting now with Tracey Davies, executive director at Just Share. Tracey, I appreciate the early morning. I was reading that UN Climate Report that came out earlier in the week, and it was scary reading. There’s just no two bones about it. It was not a fun read. As I was reading it – sort of looking out around the corporate space in South Africa, the starkness between what’s happening in the corporate space versus that report – my sense, and maybe I’m being overly paranoid, is big business, pension funds, investors are just not doing enough. Is that a fair comment?

Read:
Climate scientists reach ‘unequivocal’ consensus on human-made warming
When climate scientists speak with certainty, history is made

TRACEY DAVIES: Morning, Simon. Absolutely. It is a fair comment. And I think in some of the pronouncements and quotes and kind of public statements from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the scientists that wrote that report, you really are seeing this increasingly desperate plea, because what this report is saying essentially is that we don’t have 30 or 40 or 50 years to make changes – we have nine years, we have eight years because every additional ton of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere is going to make climate change worse in future. So the IPCC’s consistent message has been that we need to act now. 

What we hear in the corporate space – of course, it’s not just in South Africa, but it’s certainly very, very common here – is, “Yes, yes, we really get climate change. We are very worried about it. We’re totally doing everything we can to tackle it. But it’s a journey and we’ll get there in 10 or 20 years’ time because South Africa needs time to transition.” That’s obviously a complex thing to unpack but, anyway, the bottom line is that I totally agree with you.

SIMON BROWN: That that 10 or 20 years – it’s not easy. I get that. We should have started 10 or 20 years ago, but we didn’t. That’s spilled milk, but it’s kicking the can down the road. It’s executive teams passing it to the next generation of executive teams, talking the talk. But absent of action the talk is worthless. 

TRACEY DAVIES: It is, and talk in this instance is not only just worthless but also actually harmless [harmful?], the talk without the action. We’ve seen a really big upswing in, I think, awareness of climate risk in the corporate and financial sector in South Africa in the past two to three years. And we’re getting a lot of disclosure, a lot of talk about disclosure, a lot of talk about commitments, and so on. 

But what we see hardly any of – which is the main thing we need – is a plan, a decarbonisation plan from every single company, or at least the major ones, that is aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement that starts now.

Unfortunately, we are allowing the corporate sector and also the government to drive this narrative that ‘yes, we do need to take climate action, but we have to balance that against South Africa’s socioeconomic problems’. That’s a completely false narrative…

because, first of all, ‘business as usual’ is not going to solve all of those problems. It hasn’t done so yet, and there’s no reason to think that it will. Continuing as we are is going to make all of those problems a lot worse in the coming decades. If we continue to cling to coal, if we fail to come up with a credible transition plan we’re going to be very unattractive from a competitiveness point of view globally, as well as from the point of view of attracting climate finance from international climate-finance providers. 

So we’re actually putting ourselves in a worse position and using the excuse that ‘we need to go slowly because of all our socioeconomic ills’. I think that that’s a very dangerous and irresponsible narrative to be pedalling at this stage.

SIMON BROWN: And of course those at the bottom of that social hierarchy are the ones who are going to suffer the most, who will be hurt hardest. 

I’m sitting here myself as a small private investor with my portfolio, but there are organisations such as yourself and others at those AGMs – Is it just a case of me voting accordingly, me looking at a company and saying, “You’re missing the E in the ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance), and I won’t invest”. In other words, we need to start voting with our rands and cents, even if they’re small.

Read:
Why all the fuss about ESG?
10 sustainability terms every investor should understand

TRACEY DAVIES: Yes, absolutely we do. And of course, climate change is an E, S, and G issue, a huge ESG. But the biggest one and the governance of climate change is something that all investors should be looking at in every single company that they’re invested in.

But I think as well as that it’s about the people with the power to change this.

We mustn’t be conned by this idea that if you just recycle more or pay a little bit more attention to where you invest, you’ll solve the problem. This is a problem that can only be solved by the major corporations and the major institutional investors.

So what they need is pressure from clients, and they need their clients to be saying to them: What are you doing about this; we don’t see action. Why are you not pushing these companies for plans? Why are you not voting against remuneration that is not adequately linked to achieving climate goals? Why are you not voting [out] directors that are clearly not competent to develop strategies that are aligned with climate action?

We just don’t see any of that in South Africa: we see nice friendly meetings, and we see things like Ninety One’s CEO saying that they are very happy with Sasol management’s approach to climate risk. That’s just the most extraordinary application of responsibility. And the reason they get away with it is because their clients don’t challenge them.

SIMON BROWN: I like that point. As customers, as investors, we can vote, we can do the digging, we can jump up and down. But also we can take our money somewhere else. It’s not major. They might not feel it, but if enough of us do it, ultimately that’s the power we have.

Tracey Davis, executive director Just Share, I appreciate the early morning.

Listen to Thursday’s full MoneywebNOW podcast here.

Listen: Sasol CEO Fleetwood Grobler on its carbon emission reduction strategy

AUTHOR PROFILE

COMMENTS   8

Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in to comment.

SIGN IN SIGN UP

The technologies exist for coal to be a very clean energy source but after the costs of implementation are factored in (without some looting taxes) these guys will not adopt it !!!

Oh my dear, the fallacy, the red herring of ” clean coal”.
It hardly exists, is far from affordable many times more expensive than renewables with storage (battery, pumped hydro or thermal, CSP).
Clean coal would mean extremely environmentally conscious mining, and full rehabilitation of mines on decommissioning. Burning the coal would be done with thorough FGD, Flue Gas Desulphurisation, particulate filtering of the fly ash, CCS, carbon capture and storage. This all would mean it will cost at least R2.50-3/kWh. While renewables + storage in large projects produce at R 0.60-1/kWh. Nuclear roughly R1.60-2.80.

Like I said !!

‘These guys’ or any rational person. Not everything is about your little self created problems down there.

I think climate change is real and that it’s an existential threat. A disaster scenario.

But I also think we should stop deluding ourselves. The lifespan of coal fired plants in place is probably another 50 years and that’s how long they will still run. Nobody is going to stop driving their cars in the next 8 yrs, and no, we won’t stop eating meat either.

So no, we won’t fix the climate in the coming decade. We’ll do a little bit here and a little bit there to soothe our consciences but it’s never going to be enough.

And then we will all weep over those missed opportunities of the last 70 years when we knew this was going to happen, but when we wasted our time debating whether it was 95% or not of scientists who agreed that global warming was man made, instead of acting back then to fix it.

And we will all wonder how we allowed it to happen. Fact is, we are only able to sustain 8bn people on the planet because we have fossil fuels. Cut them out, and our population figures will crater overnight. It would be like a global neverending lockdown level 5.

So we may as well enjoy the bit of time we have left. Businesses as usual has a couple of years left to run before it becomes obvious to all that the show is over. 20 years left, I would guess

Dear Navigator true scientist do proper research which means taking all relative findings into account where the global warming bunch are scientific con artists who only consider data that fits their personal purpose to keep the scary story alive. What however needs serious attention is all the disposable packaging junk instead of reusable things like mugs, glasses, bottles (beer, milk etc) and many others.

do proper research. Plastic waste reduction is just fear mongering to scare people. My house is clean. You are just choosing data that suits your AGENDA. /s

The best proof of how stupid we as a species are, is that we spent thousands of years laboriously digging deep into the earth for coal to burn while the sun was burning on our backs.

End of comments.

LATEST CURRENCIES  

USD / ZAR
GBP / ZAR
EUR / ZAR
BTC / USD
INSIDER SUBSCRIPTIONS APP VIDEOS RADIO / LISTEN LIVE SHOP OFFERS WEBINARS NEWSLETTERS TRENDING PORTFOLIO TOOL CPD HUB

Follow us: