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The Financing the Future Summit took place in the iconic Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, and was attended by over 300 delegates from 44 countries.

The first major divest-invest conference in the Global South, the Summit brought fossil fuel divestment activists from NGOs, universities, cities, philanthropic foundations, faith communities together with energy access campaigners, social entrepreneurs, and governmental representatives.  Participants gave the Summit extraordinarily positive reviews, citing the energy generated by speakers, the opportunity to connect and strategize with both sides of the divest-invest aisle, and the remarkable level of geographic, sectoral, racial and cultural diversity. In addition to its educational and movement-momentum significance, the Summit also offered leaders the opportunity to share significant announcements that underscored the truly global nature of the divest invest movement.  Before and after the Summit, eight official side events offered participants and local leaders a range of opportunities to dig deeper into a range of topics.

The following represents a summary of the various aspects of the Summit, side events, related announcements and media coverage, with a financial report attached.

Summit sessions

The Summit was organized around a series of plenary sessions, workshops, delegation meetings and brief interspersed frontline testimonials.  The plenaries were aimed at generating a vision of what the future of energy investing should look like, the harm caused by the current, fossil fuel-driven investing, and the ways that communities and activists are responding in various parts of the world.  The workshops enabled representatives of different thematic, sectoral and geographic groupings to engage at a more granular level, with the frontline testimonials serving to lift up the voices and experiences of communities from Africa, Asia and the Americas to share their struggles and successes in building a sustainable energy future. Two delegation sessions, sectoral and geographic, allowed delegates to meet in these delegations and speak to people attending the Summit from their own sector and also their geographic region. These sessions meant that people working in different sectors could learn the type of work happening in the same sector globally and replicate strategies and create connections. Similarly delegates from different regions had a chance to hear what was working in their region, and how that work could support their own.

The Summit Steering Committee ensured gender, racial and geographic balance throughout the sessions.  At the conclusion of the Summit, announcements were made of the commitments taken at the Summit. These are listed on the Summit website.

Plenary topics included the following:

  • Why and How Financing the Future Helps Save People and Planet
  • Stories of Investment and Divestment
  • More than Money Alone – Divest Invest as a Cultural, Political Force for Change
  • A New Energy Paradigm for a Flourishing Future
  • Postcards from the Future: Stories of People-Centered, Community-Focused Distributed Renewable Energy Development

Workshop topics included the following:

  • Power to the People – Stories of Community-Based, Socially Inclusive Energy Access
  • Development Banks and Climate Finance – Turning the Tide towards a Sustainable Future
  • What You Need to Know – the Practicalities of Divest Invest
  • Local Governments Divesting and Investing for a Sustainable Future
  • Money, Work and Life – Jobs, Health, and Divest Invest
  • Aligning Investments with Values – Faith Communities and Divest Invest
  • A World of Good – Philanthropy and Divest Invest
  • Best Practices in Divest Invest – Model Divest Invest Campaigns and What We Can Learn
  • Dismantling an Unholy Alliance – Government and Democracy Undermined by the Fossil Fuel Industry
  • Financing the Future – How We Can Do It?
  • Sectoral Delegation meetings
  • Geographic Delegation meetings

Side events

Mission-Aligned Investing – 9th September

The Mission-Aligned Investing Seminar brought together over 100 South African mission-driven leaders to focus on how to finance a just and fossil-fuel free future in which all South Africans have access to renewable energy.

Yola Mgogwana and Othembele Dyantyi from the EarthChild Project provided stirring personal views on how they are already living the climate affected realities of the future that so many fear. They called on the leaders to take urgent and decisive action to fight the climate and ecological emergency.

Delegates felt encouraged and empowered by Ellen Dorsey, Executive Director of the Wallace Global Fund, who shared insights into the Fund’s 2014 decision to fully divest, and presented evidence that divestment had not negatively impacted the Fund’s financial returns.

Given the climate emergency, it was clear that mission-aligned investing has a significant role to play in accelerating the just transition to a low-carbon future.

With thanks to the event organisers: Just Share, Fossil-Free South Africa and 350Africa.org

Faith Breakfast – 10th September

More than 40 faith leaders from 12 countries gathered for a breakfast meeting to discuss a newly released authoritative Islamic teaching, or fatwa, that the Fiqh Council of North America had released at the Financing the Future conference.  This council of respected Islamic scholars had ruled, for the first time in any Islamic council globally, in favor of fossil fuel divestment and in support of accelerated investment to end energy poverty. The fatwa also called on Muslim investment firms to develop sharia-compliant, fossil fuel free investment vehicles immediately.  In addition, the UK association of mosques and imams (MINAB) also issued a statement supporting fossil fuel divestment and investment to end energy poverty, making it only the third Islamic body globally to make such a public statement. At the Financing the Future conference, the Fiqh Council scholars committed to engage with their peers and counterparts in other Muslim-majority countries, with a representative of Indonesia’s highest Islamic Council committing to bring the fatwa to that council for its consideration.

Celebration evening – 10th September

In a magnificent evening celebrating the dynamism of the movement, Financing the Future held a gathering on the first night of the conference at COSATU’s historic “Community House” in Salt River, Cape Town.

The event brought together conference participants and a larger community of activists and movement leaders.  The evening began with networking and dancing to live music from the South African band Sounds and Words. We then had a union leader share a brief history of the site – and its role in the fight against apartheid. The event then featured Ernestine Deane, a singer who weaved powerful narratives of climate justice and the importance of collective action at this moment in history.

The evening culminated in a live podcast, “Think 100%: The Coolest Show on Climate Change”, featuring hosts Reverend Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, Coumba Toure of Africans Rising for Justice, Peace, and Dignity, and  Kia Johnson a radio host, and inspirational speaker from Cape Town. The hosts interviewed 2 Guests: Kumi Naidoo and Ajaita Shah, both speakers at the Summit. Kumi shared the importance of divesting from fossil fuels and urged all to follow the lead of young people by joining the global climate strikes.  The second guest Ajaita Shah is a feminist leader and entrepreneur from India, forging new paths in the area of clean energy investments. The event also featured a marketplace of women vendors as well as vegan and traditional African food. The evening cemented new connections, re-ignited collaborations and left us all inspired to work collectively.

Philanthropy Breakfast – 11th September

The event was attended by representatives of philanthropic organisations as well as practitioners. Hosted by the African Philanthropy Network, 350.org, Trust Africa and the Shine Campaign, the session included several short presentations, as well as an opportunity for philanthropy representatives and practitioners to talk amongst themselves.

#AfricaWeWant Launch – 11th September

The first event in a series of regular fundraising awareness events that shall take place on a regular basis in a different city within Africa and throughout the diaspora. Participants learnt about the Africans Rising movement, they were invited to become members and to commit to donate to the movement.

While the session took place after the closing ceremony, and without video footage, meaning that many lost the opportunity to be involved, the session was a great networking opportunity. Many people expressed interest in joining the movement and to collaborate with Africans Rising in the near future.

Renewable Energy in Africa – 12th September

WoMin African Alliance and 350Africa.org presented research mapping the development of renewable energy in Africa. The session included a workshop, where the organisations sought input into the research project. 23 people attended the launch and provided valuable insight into the evolution of this piece of work.

Rise to Shine: Exploring the Role of Religious Communities in Ending Energy Poverty – 12th September

Nearly 100 leaders from across the globe met for an all-day workshop in CapeTown, South Africa to discuss strategies to scale and accelerate investment into energy access and clean energy across Africa. It was an unprecedented gathering of faith leaders and faith-based investors, local African government representatives, capital managers, private companies, and non-profit and civil society leaders seeking to develop new partnerships and discuss the below-listed investment types along with their opportunities and challenges:

  • Direct investment into early-stage energy access and distributed energy companies through debt and equity
  • Investment through intermediary and blended capital funds and programs with debt and equity
  • Grant investment in market development activities through grants to “market-making” organization

Participants came away with an enhanced understanding of both the challenges and opportunities associated with working across diverse constituencies and also with a renewed and strengthened commitment to forging new partnerships to accelerate investment in energy access solutions.

Mini-grid Policy and Regulation 101 – 13th September

The Africa Low Emissions Development Strategies Partnership (AfLP) hosted a crash course for members and non-members of the African Mini-Grids Community of Practice. The crash course brought together 21 participants from 13 countries and consisted largely of government officials, private sector representatives including the African Mini-Grid Developers Association, and donor agencies.

The objective of the crash course was to help the relevant stakeholder groups think through key policy and regulatory building blocks to developing and deploying a successful mini-grids programme. The crash course was delivered in collaboration with the Low Emissions Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP) Finance Working Group and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). We received positive feedback on the crash course and it has been requested that we host this on a much bigger scale.

Commitments and Outcomes

Many commitments for future work were made at the Summit. A full list is available on the Summit website.

Divestment timeline

Throughout the summit, we invited participants to add moments or stories from their work in divestment from fossil fuels and/or investment in renewable energy to a timeline. Participants could write a word, phrase, or paragraph on a card and then hang it in chronological order on a wire near the registration area. The interactive installation allowed participants to share part of what they brought to the summit and to the larger work. About 25 people participated.

Banner sign up

A banner with the message “We must all divest from fossil fuels and invest in solutions now.” was printed and delegates signed their names on it. The banner was sent to the United Nations Secretary General Climate Action Summit where it brought the message of the conference to the decision makers there.

Meeting with South African parliament

On the 12 September, a delegation from the Financing the Future conference [Bobby Peek, groundWork (SA); Thomas Pringle, MP (Ireland);  Rev. Jenny Phillips, Creation Care Program Manager for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (US); Thuli Makama, Oil Change International (Swaziland); David Le Page, Fossil Free SA met with both Sihlulele Luzipho, Energy and Mineral Resources Portfolio Chair, and MG Mahlaule, ANC Whip for Energy and Mineral Resources in Parliament.

We introduced ourselves and outlined some of the outcomes of the conference, and Thomas Pringle described his work in helping legislate for national Irish divestment. Hon. Luzipho may be inclined to a view that recognises emissions limits because he referred more than once to our international obligations [to cut carbon emissions]. ‘There is an acceptance that you need to move away from fossil fuels,’ he said.

While there was push back against divestment from the MPs, and the trope that coal is a ‘God-given resource’ hung heavy in the air, they said they are well aware of the direct impacts of coal mining on local communities. They did make several references to possible future public engagements, which we hope to pursue.

Possible Second Financing the Future Summit

As a reflection of the Summit’s very positive reception, numerous participants expressed interest in a second Summit at another location in Africa or, possibly, in India.  When pressed about what was most valuable about the Summit so as to identify key attributes for a second Summit, participants repeatedly mentioned

  • the value of meeting with a sectorally, geographically, ethnically/racially diverse community of partners
  • hearing from leaders who can share examples of divest-invest work
  • the energizing and inspiring experience of being together

There has also been huge interest in keeping participants in touch with one another and keeping the momentum of the summit going.

Offsetting the Summit impact

Hosting a Summit with over 300 attendees has an attendant carbon footprint. While the steering committee was clear that the work done at the Summit is critical in the fight against climate change, we also acknowledged the impact of the Summit through both the Summit catering, as well as carbon offsetting (which while not the solution, goes a way to lessen the Summit’s impact).

50by40 is a global, collective impact organisation aiming to cut the global production and consumption of industrial animal agriculture by 50% by 2040. Keen to promote plant forward diets – they partnered with Financing the Future, who served plant based meals with a low carbon footprint at the Summit. Together with 50by40, we advocated for a plant based diet by providing information on the link between livestock and climate change through informative banners.

All travel and venue related emissions were calculated by Credible Carbon, a local carbon offsetting company. Carbon credits were purchased from 3 local projects – all of the projects aim to alleviate poverty while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They included a composting operation, efficient fuel stoves and energy efficient housing. In total 310.93 tonnes of CO2 was offset. While offsetting is not a solution to climate change in and of itself, we felt it necessary to take this step in light of the carbon footprint of the Summit.