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2015 NEWS AND PRESS RELEASES

For all media enquiries please contact Nombulelo Shange on 033 342 5662 or 074 874 2177 or click here to send an e-mail.  Click here to access our News and Press Release ARCHIVES.

DEATH OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE HERO

Vanderbijlpark, Gauteng, 30 December 2015 – Ntata “Strike” Matshepe, long time campaigner against ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA - previously Iscor) passed away in the in the early hours of Sunday morning, the 27th December 2015, at his house in Unitas Park, Vereeniging.

Strike’s family was one of the last three remaining families in Steel Valley, who stood firm against AMSA and refused to sell their land to AMSA, but rather demanded environmental justice calling on AMSA to clean up their pollution and compensate people fairly for the loss of their land, due to the pollution from AMSA. 

Read the full media advisory here.

REACTION TO THE ADOPTION OF THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT

Paris, France, December 12, 2015 – Responding to the adopting of the Paris deal, Lucy Cadena, Climate Justice and Energy Coordinator for Friends of the Earth International, said:

"If the outcome of the Paris climate Summit was meant to keep the window open for a 1.5 degree temperature limit – crucial if we are to protect the most vulnerable people from the worst impacts, and to avoid runaway climate change – then Paris has failed."
"But we must remember that the window is not quite closed. The energy transformation has long been underway and the huge mobilisations on the streets of Paris today show us who is truly leading us towards climate justice."

Cadena continued:

"Friends of the Earth International commends the work of communities and people everywhere resisting dirty energy and implementing real solutions to the climate crisis. Now, the climate justice movement has come of age. December 12th 2015 marks a turning point for the balance of power. We move into 2016 strengthened, united and more determined than ever to hold our national governments to account."

For more information and FOEI contacts, click here.

AFRICA IS SET TO BURN

Paris, Friday, 11 December 2015 – The Paris draft agreement says its purpose is to limit global warming to ‘well below’ 2 degrees and to ‘pursue efforts’ to limit it to 1.5 degrees. But it cuts all links with the means of doing this and in reality puts the world on track for 3 to 4 degrees warming. That means 5 to 8 degrees warming for Africa with terrible heatwaves, droughts and floods. It means that our coastal cities will drown. It means that hundreds of millions of people will die in this century, as our food systems and ecological systems collapse.

Africa has done little to cause global warming. Over the last two centuries and more, the imperial powers and corporations have plundered Africa. It started with the enslavement of millions of people and it includes the extraction of fossil fuels and minerals and the appropriation of vast tracts of land. This plunder is accompanied by extraordinary environmental destruction. Our air is made toxic, our water is poisoned and our lands are destroyed. Climate change comes on top of these local impacts.

Read the full media advisory here.

GROUNDWORK APPEALS 600MW KIPOWER (PTY) LTD COAL POWER STATION

Cape Town, South Africa, 10 December 2015 – On behalf of groundWork, the Centre of Environmental Rights (CER) has filed an appeal in terms of the Section 43 of the National Environmental Management Act, 1998 against the Integrated Environmental Authorisation for the proposed construction of a 600 megawatt coal-fired independent power plant and associated infrastructure for KiPower (Pty) Ltd. near Delmas in the Mpumalanga Province.

Read the full submission here.

THE IMFOLOZI COMMUNITIES AND WILDERNESS ALLIANCE (ICWA) RESPONSE TO IBUTHO COAL’s ANNOUNCEMENT TO DELAY MINE

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 01 December 2015 - ICWA considers Ibutho Coal’s announcement, on 18 November 2015, to delay the Fuleni EIA process in order to undertake “additional work” as both a clear admission and confirmation that the public participation process (PPP) conducted by Naledi Consulting and the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared by Jacana Environmentals are grossly inadequate. 

We stand firm in our resolve to oppose the Fuleni coal mine.

Read the full media advisory here.

GROUNDWORK 2015 REPORT RELEASED - Climate and Energy: The elite trips out.

Parys, Free State, South Africa, 01 December 2015 - The groundWork 2015 report is published to coincide with the climate negotiations in Paris where a new treaty is supposed to be inked. It argues not only that the negotiations will not produce a result adequate to the challenge, but also that the parties are looking for a dysfunctional climate regime.

South Africa is amongst the top 12 producers of carbon emissions. The report examines its submission, judged 'inadequate', and climate policy. For corporate South Africa, 'inadequate' translates into over-ambitious. Amongst their regular complaints is that climate and energy policy are not aligned. We agree. South Africa's energy plans scarcely recognise its climate pledge and the Department of Energy is well aligned to the corporate view.

The report looks at the long running power crisis and argues that it is not just Eskom that is failing. The model of development that has shaped South Africa over the last century is based on cheap coal, cheap labour and heavy duty pollution. It is now broken. There is no certain outcome to the political battles of the next decades but it is certain that survival is at stake. The concluding section asks "whose survival?"

Read the full Media Advisory here.

Download the Report here.

DON'T FRACK SOUTH AFRICA'S WATER FACTORY

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 12 November 2015 – The Drakensberg and KwaZulu Natal Midlands is the water factory for millions of people in the south eastern half of South Africa.

An American owned company, Rhino Oil & Gas, has applied for a prospecting license for the already water stressed areas of Matatiele, Richmond, Eston, Pietermaritzburg, Hilton, Howick, Karkloof, Balgowan, Dargle, Kranskop, Weenen, Nkandla and Vryheid. Public Meetings take place in November 2015, so we have to act fast! 

The area includes the Umzimvubu Catchment, which is earmarked for extensive water supply investment under the National Development Plan. Why is Minister Mokonyane not taking a stand to prevent contamination of water resources? 

Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has unknown long term impacts on human and animal health through exposure to the chemicals used in the process. Groundwater may become contaminated. Fracking requires about 20 million litres of water for each drill site. Few people will have access to the skilled job requirements, and thousands of rural people may be adversely affected through compromised health and farming. We need renewable energy, not short term fossil fuel extraction at the expense of our water and well being. Sustainable farming generates better returns for longer periods for more people, with limited adverse impacts, than fracking can ever offer.

Please click here to sign the petition - If you drink water, you must sign now!

Click here to view a video of a recent meeting between Rhino Oil & Gas, SLR Consulting and the community around Lion's River

STATE FORCE UNLEASHED ON PEACEFUL WASTE PICKERS

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 11 November 2015 – The State, through the South African Police Services, has acted with unnecessary force as a gas canister and rubber bullets were shot into a crowd of 70 waste pickers, injuring five, at a peaceful protest outside the New England Road landfill site early this morning. Waste pickers were responding to the threat given by the Msunduzi Municipal executive last week that they would chase waste pickers off the site with pellet guns.

Critically, it was also consolidating a historical grievance of the longstanding failure of the municipality to build a materials recovery facility (MRF) despite funding of R21 million for the project in 2012 given by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). This is not the first action taken by the waste pickers regarding this project.

Read the media advisory here.

WASTE PICKERS TO LOCKDOWN MUNICIPAL LANDFILL SITE TOMORROW

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 10 November 2015 – Waste pickers will tomorrow morning at 05h00 lock the gates of the New England landfill site, preventing municipal garbage trucks from entering the site. This is in response to the Msunduzi Municipal executive committee, last week, announcing they would chase waste pickers off the site with pellet guns.

It is in protest too against the longstanding failure of the municipality to build a materials recovery facility (MRF) despite funding of R21 million for the project in 2012 given by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). This is not the first action taken by the waste pickers regarding this project.

Read the full media advisory here.

EXECUTED NIGERIAN ACTIVIST 20TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATED AROUND THE WORLD

Lagos, Nigeria, 09 November 2015 – Led by Nigerian activists, social justice campaigners from around the world will commemorate on 10 November the 20th anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight more Ogonis at the hands of the Nigerian dictatorship of Sani Abacha.

Known around the world for his struggle with oil giant Shell, Ken Saro-Wiwa is  now a figure acclaimed globally for showing how people power can win over polluting corporate giants and dirty energy.

The social and environmental crisis and injustice exposed by Ken Saro Wiwa in the oil-rich and massively polluted Niger Delta are still ongoing; the people of Ogoniland are still suffering from the effects of fifty years of land, air and water pollution by the oil industry.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands, along with four Nigerian farmers, brought a lawsuit against Shell in The Netherlands for oil pollution in three Nigerian villages. This is the first time that a Dutch company has been brought before a Dutch court to account for environmental damage caused abroad. A judgement is expected on Friday 18 December.

Read the full media advisory here.

Open letter to the members of the South African Police Services

Tuesday, 03 November 2015

To serve and to protect

We write to you, the police, as the participants of groundWork’s Environmental Justice School 2015. The Environmental Justice School is a project that brings together activists from all over the world. In our activist hats, we recognise the students’ #FeesMustFall struggles and we are sympathetic to the police brutality and we feel that these children should not be chastised for advocating for their constitutional right to free education for all.

Read the full text of the letter here.

SOLIDARITY WITH KODAIKANAL: UNILEVER, WE’RE FED UP!

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 03 November 2015 – The student activists at this year’s Environmental Justice School stood in solidarity with the community in Kodaikanal, southern India who to this day have neither seen proper remediation of land contaminated with mercury nor compensation for families of workers who died at Unilever’s Hindustan factory in 2001.

Earlier this year, Unilever CEO Paul Polman was awarded the Champion of the Earth Award by the United Nations Environmental Programme. In learning about Unilever’s toxic legacy in India, the students felt compelled to lend their voices to the struggle urging Polman to give real meaning to the image of a clean, green and sustainable Unilever.

Watch the video here.

PINOCCHIO CLIMATE AWARDS 2015: VOTING OPENS FOR DIRTIEST CORPORATE PINOCCHIO

Brussels/Paris, 3 November 2015 – The companies most guilty of undermining climate action are exposed today in the Pinocchio Climate Awards. Cash from big corporations is being used, through lobbying or greenwashing, to undermine necessary action on climate change the organisers of the awards say, a few weeks ahead of a crucial climate summit in Paris.

Some of the largest and most influential companies in the world are up for public vote, which opens today, for awards in three categories – lobbying, greenwashing and impacts on communities. Nominees include sponsors of the UN climate talks BNP-Paribas, EDF and Engie, who have significant investments in dirty energy, from fossil fuels to nuclear energy.

Read the full media advisory here.

LEAD EXPOSURE DUMBING DOWN OUR CHILDREN - WHO Lead Poisoning Prevention Week starts tomorrow

Durban, South Africa, 25 October 2015 – Lead poisoning is entirely preventable yet the World Health Organisation estimates childhood lead exposure to contribute to about 600 000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year. Tomorrow marks the start of the WHO’s third international lead poisoning prevention week, which aims to raise awareness about lead poisoning and urge further action to eliminate lead in paint. 

Read the full media advisory here.

CLIMATE: BONN TALKS POINT TO A WEAK PARIS DEAL

BONN, GERMANY, October 23, 2015 – The final preparation session for December's global climate summit in Paris is ending in disappointment and disarray today in Bonn.

The weak negotiation text, which is largely favorable to developed countries, points to a shockingly inadequate deal at the Paris talks. Developing countries opposed a non-transparent process, after an attempt to remove observers from some negotiation rooms.

"The deplorable inaction at the climate negotiations is a calamity for people across the world. We are facing a planetary emergency with floods, storms, droughts and rising seas causing devastation. The risk of irreversible climate change draws ever closer, and hundreds of thousands of people have already paid with their lives," said Dipti Bhatnagar, Friends of the Earth International's climate justice and energy coordinator.

Read the full FOEI media advisory here.

RICH COUNTRIES PUT PLANET ON COURSE FOR IRREVERSIBLE CLIMATE CHANGE

BONN, GERMANY, October 19, 2015
– Friends of the Earth International warned today that rich countries – those most responsible for climate change – are putting us on course for irreversible and more devastating climate change, instead of taking the urgently needed radical action to reduce their carbon emissions.

The warning was issued as governments from around the world start a week-long gathering at the UN climate talks in Bonn to negotiate, for the first time, the text of a new global climate treaty to be agreed in Paris in December.

“Emission cut pledges made by rich countries so far are less than half of what we need to avoid runaway climate change. The draft Paris agreement on the negotiating table this week shows that many seem ready to accept irreversible and devastating consequences for people and the planet,” said Susann Scherbarth, climate justice and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

Read the full press release here.

COURT ACTION ON JOEMAT-PETTERSSON’S SECRET NUCLEAR DEAL

Johannesburg, South Africa, 15 October 2015 – Environmental justice organisations, Earthlife Africa Jhb (ELA-Jhb) and the Southern African Faith Communities Environment Institution (SAFCEI) are going to court in a bid to challenge government’s plan to procure 9600 MW of nuclear reactors.

On the 12th of October 2015 the two organisations issued their application papers out of the Cape Town High Court challenging various aspects of the nuclear procurement process.

In its papers, Earthlife Africa Jhb and SAFCEI maintain that the minister has failed to put the necessary processes in place to ensure that the nuclear procurement deal is conducted lawfully and meets the requirements of the constitution for a fair, equitable, transparent, and competitive and costs effective process.

Read the full press release here.

MERCURY-FREE DENTISTRY PLAN RELEASED BY AFRICAN CIVIL SOCIETY

Durban, South Africa, 14 October 2015 – To celebrate Africa’s second annual Mercury-Free Dentistry Day which took place this Monday, groundWork joined civil society across the continent by releasing a plan on how Africa can leapfrog into pollution-free dentistry.

Dental amalgam is 50% mercury, a dangerous neurotoxin. The pollution-free alternatives to dental amalgam are affordable, effective, and available. Led by the African Region, over 120 nations have signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which calls for an immediate scaling down of amalgam use.

Read the full press release here.

BUILDING ACTIVISM: GROUNDWORK'S ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE SCHOOL KICKS OFF

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 12 October 2015 – This year, groundWork's Environmental Justice School is focusing on building activism over three weeks, using theory and praxis in its curriculum targeting members of community partner organisations. Nineteen students from South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia and Sweden will be engaged on issues of development and power, environmental legislation in South Africa and campaigning in areas of energy, air, water, land and food.

Read more about this here.

SA TO EXPORT COAL FOR 1ST KENYAN POWER STATION, LAMU COMMUNITY SPEAKS OUT
Press conference: Lamu community members in South Africa's coal-fields

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 – Kenya's Lamu Archipelago, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich Kiswahili culture and semi-pristine islands, is set to be transformed if authorisation for a 1000MW coal-fired power station is given by the Kenyan government. The construction of the power station, together with the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET), will result in the displacement of indigenous peoples and the loss of their agricultural and fishing livelihoods.

Members of the community-based Kenyan NGO Save Lamu are this week in the Mpumalanga Highveld on an exchange visit with the Highveld Environmental Justice Network, a coalition of communities on the fenceline of Eskom's power stations. They will be joined by environmental justice NGOs Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg) and groundWork, who are hosting the exchange.

Read the full press release here.

Health Care Without Harm’s, Gary Cohen, awarded MacArthur Fellowship

Chicago, USA, 28 September 2015 – Co-founder and president of Health Care Without Harm, Gary Cohen, has been awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship for his work as an Environmental Health Advocate, who promtes environmental responsibility among health care providers and repositioning health care institutional practice around the broader challenges of sustainability, climate change, and community health.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. According to the Foundation’s president, Julia Stasch, “These 24 delightfully diverse MacArthur Fellows are shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways. Their work, their commitment, and their creativity inspire us all.”

Read about the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship here:
https://www.macfound.org/fellows/932/

ONLY EIGHT COUNTRIES MEET TWO KEY CONDITIONS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AS UNITED NATIONS ADOPTS SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

OAKLAND, SEPTEMBER 23, 2015—Eight countries in the world currently meet two key minimum conditions for global sustainable development: satisfactory well-being for their residents, as measured by the U.N., and living within the planet’s resource budget, according to Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank with offices in North America, Europe and Asia. Global Footprint Network monitors this second condition by tracking humanity’s demand on the planet (Ecological Footprint) against nature’s ability to provide for this demand (biocapacity).

Read the full press release here.

NO MANDATE TO BURN AFRICA - Environmental NGOs address parliament on South Africa’s climate change policy

Cape Town, South Africa, 22 September 2015 – Environmental justice organisations today told parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Environment that the United Nations’ climate negotiations in Paris in December will not deliver a plan that will in reality stop temperature rise at the necessary 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to groundWork, this is because adequate action on climate is in direct contradiction with the interests of corporate capital, and it is corporates such as Sasol in South Africa, which have captured the climate negotiations.

Read the full press release here.

DURBAN DECLARATION ON REDD

Durban, South Africa - 9 September 2015 - We, local communities, peasants movements, Indigenous Peoples and civil society organizations from Africa and all over the world, call upon the United Nations, the World Forestry Congress, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Bank and states to reject top-down forms of development, including false solutions to climate change and forest and biodiversity conservation that only serve the dominant market economy.

Read the full text of the declaration here.

COLENSO COAL-FIRED POWER STATION PROJECT SCOPING REPORT

Durban, South Africa, 8 September 2015 – Summary by the Centre for Environmental Rights to determine if the suggestions groundWork made on the Draft Scoping Report for the Colenso Coal-fired Power Station Project were incorporated in the Final Scoping Report and to determine if further comments can be made on the Final Scoping Report.

Read the summary here.

CLIMATE ‘CONTRIBUTIONS’ SPELL DISASTER FOR SOUTH AFRICA

Durban, South Africa, 27 August 2015 – In the lead up to the annual United Nations climate negotiations, the South African government has published its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) discussion document [1], which states that South Africa is “firmly committed” to keeping global warming to less than 2˚C above pre-industrial levels. It adds that this target may be revised to “below 1.5˚C in light of emerging science, noting that global average temperature increase of 2˚C translates to up to 4˚C for South Africa by the end of the century”. 

groundWork maintains that this is a recipe for disaster.

Read the full press release here.

HUGE OPPOSITION TO ZULULAND COAL MINE ‘CATASTROPHE’

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 26 August 2015 – The fight is on! And it promises to be one of the most bitterly contested battles in KwaZulu Natal’s environmental history.

The proposed anthracite ‘Fuleni’ coal mine targeted for establishment on the south-eastern border of the world famous Hluhluwe-iMfolozi game reserve in Zululand has been confronted with the largest collection of environmental and conservation NGO groupings ever established in KwaZulu-Natal to oppose it.

On top of this, preliminary community-inspired and specialist academic investigation of Ibutho Coal’s draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA) has delivered withering criticisms, describing it as “fatally flawed”.

Read the full press release here.

SASOL AND THE PROPOSED CARBON TAX

Durban, South Africa, 29 July 2015 – In May this year, business and industry made representations to the Davis Tax Committee on Treasury's proposal for to introduce a carbon tax. The tenor of their arguments were that no more should be done to mitigate emissions and this was backed up by the claim, based on Sasol's 'emissions outlook', that South Africa's emissions are 'below target'. 

Here, we are posting links to:

We are also posting a link to an article carried in the Mail & Guardian, headed 'Corporate SA promotes carbon myths', which gives our view of the overall position taken by business. 

HARD HITTING SA COAL & HEALTH DOCUMENTARY LAUNCHED ONLINE

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 27 July 2015 – Award-winning South African documentary The Bliss of Ignorance will be officially launched online today making it widely available for public access. The new groundWork and Friends of the Earth International film investigates South Africa's complex relationship with one of the country's most abundant resources - coal.

Experts are predicting the creation of a 'sick' generation in the Mpumalanga Highveld region, which is home to 12 of the world's largest power stations. This documentary looks at the impact of South Africa's energy policy - particularly the support for Eskom, the state's energy utility's reliance on coal-fired power stations - on public health.

Read the full press release here

THE LANCET: TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE GREATEST GLOBAL HEALTH OPPORTUNITY OF 21ST CENTURY - Health commission labels climate change a “health emergency”.

Durban, South Africa, 23 June 2015 – The threat to human health from climate change is so great that it could undermine the last fifty years of gains in development and global health, said leading medical journal The Lancet in its 2015 Commission on Health and Climate report. South Africans are at serious risk from the health impacts of heatwaves, extreme weather, droughts, increasing spread of climate sensitive diseases, and associated mental ill health.
This report updates and builds on the ground breaking UCL-Lancet Commission published in 2009 when climate change was first described as the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century”.

Read the full press release here.

ARCELORMITTAL’S ENVIRONMENTAL MASTER PLAN MADE PUBLIC BY VAAL COMMUNITIES

Johannesburg, South Africa, 19 June 2015 – In November 2014, the Supreme Court of Appeal handed down judgement in the case of steelmaker ArcelorMittal South Africa (AMSA) against community organisation the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA), ordering AMSA to hand over the 2003 Environmental Master Plan for its Vanderbijlpark steel plant. The Master Plan, sought by VEJA for more than a decade, was eventually handed over by AMSA on 17 December 2014.

Read the full media briefing here.

GOVERNMENTS RECOGNISE AIR POLLUTION’S THREAT TO HUMAN HEALTH - South Africa agrees on WHO’s first resolution on air pollution.

Geneva, Switzerland & Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 1 June 2015 – The world’s governments took an important step forward in recognizing air pollution as a major threat to human health, by issuing a resolution at the World Health Assembly in Geneva this week. The resolution mandates greater engagement by the World Health Organization (WHO) to address a problem responsible for one out of eight deaths worldwide.

Read the full press release here.

PUSHBACK ON EXTRACTIVE ACTIVITIES IN AFRICA BY FRIENDS OF THE EARTH GROUPS

Kampala, Uganda & Pietermartizburg, South Africa, 26 May 2015 – Friends of the Earth Africa (FoEA) groups have decried the impact of extractive companies’ operations across the African region, cautioning that if communities are not adequately empowered to advocate for and defend their rights, more of them will be displaced leading to conflicts.

The groups made the call during a solidarity mission to oil host communities in Bunyoro sub-region (Albertine Region, Uganda) currently grappling with the challenges associated with the developing oil industry in the country. Participants in the solidarity visit were Friends of the Earth International, FoEA member groups from Uganda, Nigeria, Togo, Tanzania, Cameroon, Ghana, Mali, Tunisia and South Africa.

Read the full press release here.

COLENSO POWER STATION A NO-GO OPTION

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 13 May 2015 – A 1050MW coal-fired power station with its own new coal mine has been proposed for Colenso by Colenso Power, a business created to build and run it. Colenso Power claims that the project is necessary to address the present electricity shortage. Commenting on the Draft Scoping Report (DSR), groundWork argues to the contrary that, by the time it is built, there will be a surplus of generating capacity.

This conclusion follows the projections of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010 ‘Update’. The first unit of the Medupi coal-fired power station in Lephalale, Limpopo will come on line in mid-2015 and, even allowing for further delays, the plant should be completed by 2018. The Kusile coal-fired power station near Emalahleni, Mpumalanga is also delayed but the first unit should be producing power within the next two years.

Further, this new plant cannot be reconciled with the national policy on climate change. This is considering the fact that existing coal-fired power stations already make South Africa one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gasses globally, and indeed the highest emitter in Africa. Despite this, the DSR does not contain a single reference to climate change.

Any additional energy needs should rather be supplied by renewable resources.

Read the full press release here.

AFRICAN AND FRENCH CIVIL SOCIETY CHALLENGE FRENCH FUNDING OF DIRTY ENERGY

Johannesburg, South Africa/Paris, France, 13 May 2015 - This Friday, 15th of May, over a thousand protesters, organised by Earthlife Africa, will descend on the French Consulate in Johannesburg, South Africa. The protesters demand an end to the destructive climate policy of the French government and French company Engie (formally GDF Suez) in which the French state is a 33% shareholder. As France prepares to host the international climate negotiations, COP21, at the end of this year, protestors demand that France stop exporting dirty coal to Africa.

Earthlife Africa Johannesburg demands that Engie stop its investments in dirty coal in South Africa. Engie plans to build a 1200MW polluting coal-fired power station in the ecologically fragile Waterberg in Limpopo province.

Young Friends of the Earth France will hold a demonstration in Paris on the same day, in solidarity with the South African picket. They demand their government and energy company to divest from dirty energy in developing countries such as South Africa. Rather, they call on the French government to support transfer of resources and technology to developing countries to facilitate community-led renewable energy projects.

Read the full press release here.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE ORGANISATIONS SUE ETHEKWINI FOR ACCESS TO REFINERY LICENCES

Durban, South Africa, 5 May 2015 - Environmental justice organisations the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance and the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance have launched legal proceedings in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court to force eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality to release the atmospheric emission licences and compliance reports of two south Durban refineries.

Atmospheric emission licences govern the amount of pollution industries can emit into the atmosphere.

These court proceedings form part of a critical larger battle to achieve public access to all industry environmental licences and compliance reports.

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA) are represented by attorneys at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER).

Read the full press release here.

COMMENT SUBMISSION: NERSA consultation paper on small-scale embedded generation regulatory rules

24 March 2015 – Implicit within the proposed regulations is a model shaping the emergence of embedded generation of electricity. Poor people do not figure in this model. Rather, it is assumed that embedded generation is relevant only to rich households and businesses. This model responds to the concern that rapidly growing rooftop Photo Voltaic (PV) is reducing consumption by the rich and threatens municipalities with the best part of their profit from electricity sales.

Download the full submission to NERSA here.

Africans unite against xenophobia in South Africa

Maputo, 23 April, 2015 - The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights says that:  “Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.” This is being violated in South Africa through the xenophobic attacks on Africans.

Read more ....

Watch the YouTube video here.

Maputo Declaration of African Civil Society on Climate Justice

Maputo 23, April 2015 - Climate justice advocates, community peoples and mass movements' representatives met in Maputo, Mozambique from 21-23 April 2015 to consider the roots, manifestations and impacts of Climate change on Africa and to consider needed responses to the crises.

At the end of the deliberations it was agreed that Africa is disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis although she has not significantly contributed to the problem. The conference also noted that the climate crisis is systemic in nature and is a result of defective economic and political systems that require urgent overhaul. In particular, the meeting considered that Africa has been massively plundered over the centuries and continues to suffer severe impacts from resource exploitation and related conflicts.

Read the full text of the Declaration here.

See the Reader prepared by Justiça Ambiental for the Seeding Climate Justice meeting in Maputo in April 2015 here.

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo announces he intends to step down by the end of 2015

31 March, 2015 - After five and a half years as the head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo today announced his decision to step down as the organisation's Executive Director. In agreement with the Board of Greenpeace International, Kumi is staying on until 31 December 2015, at the latest, to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership. The Board is now embarking on the difficult task of searching for a replacement. Meanwhile, Kumi continues in his current role of leading Greenpeace and promoting the organisation's campaigns.

Read the full Greenpeace press release here.

COMMUNITIES CALL FOR CRACK DOWN ON COAL ACTIVITIES - Communities meet top officials at DMR and Kuyasa Mining

eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, South Africa, 25 March 2015 – Earlier today, the Department of Mineral Resoures’s (DMR) Mining Economist Ntshele Phasha and Kuyasa Mining’s Director Ayanda Bam were met by approximately 250 peaceful marchers from the Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN) and signed the Network’s memorandum outlining the lived realities of communities living next to coal mines and coal-fired power stations. 

We live with and have first-hand experience of the devastation of coal mining and coal fired facilities.  Ours is a voice that has been for far too long ignored for the benefit of corporate profit derived from coal,” the memorandum states.

Kuyasa Mining’s subsidiary KiPower is proposing a 600MW (to be increased to 2000MW) coal-fired power station for Delmas. This was the main target for the march as the Highveld is already recognised as a heavily polluted area and does not need another polluting power station. The DMR was addressed as it interacts with Kuyasa Mining and all other mining companies, an important target as people suffer daily from the impacts of mines on their health, water and agricultural land. 

Read more ...

RESPONSE TO SHELL BACKING OUT OF KAROO

Graaf Reinet and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 20 March 2015 – The Southern Cape Land Committee (SCLC) [1] and groundWork [2] welcome the announcement that Shell will not “aggressively” continue to pursue their application for an exploratory license to frack for shale. This is in line with international trends in the fracking industry which is increasingly realizing that the failure to generate sufficient profits makes fracking unviable and dangerous. 

Parallel to this are the various struggles of local resistance globally, that are gaining momentum and highlighting to the world real concern that society has about the negative environmental impact of fracking.

From the outset Shell’s aggressive and arrogant attitude was apparent in the inflated promises of jobs and investment, in the disregard for local people’s opinions and in the obvious hope that legislation would favour investors above all else. SCLC is hopeful that the other companies who are applying for licenses, Bundu and Falcon, will follow this example.

Read more ....

PUSH NORWEGIAN PENSION FUND TO INCREASE DIVESTMENT FROM COAL  

20 March 2015 - According to a recent article published in The Guardian:

“Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), worth $850bn (£556bn) and founded on the nation’s oil and gas wealth, revealed a total of 114 companies had been dumped on environmental and climate grounds in its first report on responsible investing… The companies divested also include tar sands producers, cement makers and gold miners. As part of a fast-growing campaign, over $50bn in fossil fuel company stocks have been divested by 180 organisations on the basis that their business models are incompatible with the pledge by the world’s governments to tackle global warming. But the GPFG is the highest profile institution to divest to date.”

Read here how you can join a global campaign to push them to divest even more!

URGE THE GATES AND WELLCOME TRUST FOUNDATIONS TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS

17 March 2015 - The Guardian, one of the world's most respected and influential newspapers, is today joining the fight to keep fossil fuels underground by launching its very own divestment campaign in partnership with 350.org.

In a watershed moment for the growing divestment movement, The Guardian is setting its sights on the contradictory fossil fuel investments of two of the largest philanthropic health and development organisations - the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.  Both are heavily invested in the industry wreaking havoc on our climate - a move that's completely at odds with their missions to create a better world.

Both foundations are full of good people who recognise the huge threat that climate change poses to the health of millions -- but their investments are completely out of step and actively undermining their own good work. Join our new campaign with The Guardian to end this dangerous double standard now:

Call on the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation to divest from fossil fuels immediately

Together, we can convince these leading philanthropic organisations to lead by example and stop profiting from the industry wrecking our chances of a safe, healthy future. If the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust divest from fossil fuels, it will send a powerful signal that tackling climate change and promoting global health and development are two sides of the same coin.

We know this can work - it already is! The fossil fuel divestment movement is winning new victories every week - from the City of Oslo to the Rockefeller Foundation - and each act of divestment helps build an even stronger case for keeping fossil fuels underground.

With enough of us on board - and working with The Guardian newspaper - we know we can convince huge health and development charities like Wellcome and Gates to divest and create the watershed moment needed for climate action.

Sign the petition now - and then please share it widely with friends and family.

It's completely counter-productive to help those affected by climate change using money made from the fossil fuel industry. And it's increasingly clear that fossil fuels are a bad long term investment. To avoid climate crisis, we're going to have to leave 80% fossil fuels in the ground -- which means current fossil fuel shares are massively overvalued and investors could lose billions.

This is a battle we must win, and together we will.  Over the coming months we'll be working with The Guardian, Avaaz and other partners to help us secure some major divestment wins around the world - please do join us.

NEVER BEFORE HAVE WE KNOWN SO MUCH AND DONE SO LITTLE: HEALTH, SOCIAL WELL-BEING AND CLIMATE CHANGE

11 March 2015 - Imagine you take your 3-week old baby to the doctor with a suspected infection and fever of more than 38°C. Would you want the doctor to take specimens for bacterial culture and then wait several days for absolute certainty that there is a bacterial infection before treating your child or would you want treatment immediately? Most doctors would treat immediately because they know that the risk of calamity is real and if they wait it may be too late. This type of decision making, familiar to all health professionals, is what is required of us if we are to avert a human and planetary crisis in the coming decades.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of communities represents a consensus on the latest evidence from hundreds of scientists who have themselves appraised the work of thousands of their colleagues from around the world. The report spells out the expected impacts of climate change on human health and social wellbeing.

Underlying the anticipated effects on human health and social wellbeing are the measured changes in the climate system itself and a variety of possible future scenarios. These scenarios have different magnitudes of impact, depending on whether we continue with business as usual in terms of greenhouse emissions and on the complexity of the interaction between the climate, natural and social systems.

Read the full article by Bob Mash here.

BREATHING SPACE FOR POLLUTERS AT EXPENSE OF PUBLIC HEALTH

09 March 2015 - On 24 February 2015, the Minister and Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) called a media briefing at Parliament in Cape Town to announce their decisions on 118 applications by 35 large industrial polluting facilities to postpone compliance with air quality laws governing atmospheric emissions.

At the briefing, the National Air Quality Officer announced that the vast majority of applications for postponements from compliance with the so-called “minimum emission standards” have been granted for five years to national electricity service provider Eskom; to refineries such as Engen, Total, Shell, Natref and Sasol; to PPC in the cement manufacturing industry; and to Anglo American Platinum in the platinum mining sector. For all other polluting industries, these standards kick in on 1 April 2015. In some cases, the National Air Quality Officer even granted five years’ postponement of the stricter standards that apply from 1 April 2020.

So without much ado, South Africans have been condemned to at least another five years of pollution that indisputably exceeds standards developed, negotiated with the polluters and promulgated as being the minimum standards that South Africa’s air quality can tolerate.

Read the full opinion piece by Melissa Fourie here.

JOIN IN THE GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION ON UNILEVER

6 March 2015 – 14th anniversary of Kodaikanal - In Kodaikanal, India, Hindustan Unilever operated a second-hand mercury thermometer factory it inherited from Chesebrough Pond's for 18 years. The factory was located adjacent to a dense and biodiverse protected forest that is part of a prominent watershed. On the 16 March 2001, the factory was shut down for violating environmental laws when it was found to have dumped toxic mercury wastes in nearby forests, within its factory premises and in a scrapyard in a crowded part of town. A Government of India report found that the factory's negligence extended even to occupational hygiene and work safety practices. The report found these to be inadequate and concluded that workers and their families had been affected due to mercury exposure of workers in the shop-floor.

The people of Kodaikanal are calling on you for solidarity in their struggle. Former workers continue to suffer:

  • Premature deaths.
  • Memory loss and tremors mean they remain unemployed.
  • Children born with brain-impairments.

Unilever Pty Ltd. (UK) CEO, Paul Polman speaks about improving labour and human rights, ending global poverty and working towards sustainable development. Ex-workers don’t believe his promises:

  • Unilever denies ex-workers’ demands for compensation and health care.
  • Unilever has downgraded the standards to which it will clean-up the factory site and its surroundings.

TAKE ACTION by signing on (yourself and/or your organisation) using the letter here, and email it to paul.polman@unilever.com with a blind copy to kodai.struggle@gmail.com.

For more information visit: www.kodaimercury.org
A luta continua!

TOXIC AIR IS NOW LEGAL AIR

05 March 2015 - President Mandela promised cleaner, less toxic air for communities around industrial plants in 1995. President Zuma's administration broke this promise on Tuesday, 24 February 2014.

When government granted Eskom, Sasol, Engen and other industries postponements for meeting air quality standards this week, it condemned communities near those industries to years of toxic, life-threatening pollution. The African National Congress was elected into government to protect people, not poison them.

The Air Quality Act is supposed to ensure that the management of air pollution in South Africa is not only at the point where we breathe air, but also at the source of where the pollution is created; a critical point focusing on the polluter. The decision taken by government has fatal impacts as Eskom will kill, prematurely, about 20,000 people over the remaining life of the power plants – including approximately 1,600 deaths of young children.

Read the full opinion piece by Bobby Peek & Tristen Taylor here.

DEATH SENTENCE FOR PEOPLE OF THE HIGHVELD AND VAAL

eMalahleni, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 25 February 2015 – The decision taken yesterday by the Department of Environmental Affairs to grant Eskom permission to postpone complying with the minimum emission standards (MES) is a clear disregard for the people of the already heavily polluted areas of the Highveld and Vaal. Their right to environmental health and well-being as provided for in the Constitution has been ignored, despite South Africa being a democracy for the people.

According to Nomcebo Makhubelo, Coordinator of the Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN):

“We have been opposed to the applications because they meant that industries – in particular Eskom – are ultimately seeking permission to continue destroying the health and lives of ordinary people in the Highveld. It should also be noted that the area is an Air Quality Priority Area, and specific interventions were supposed to bring ambient air quality into compliance with ambient air quality standards. The postponements are a direct contradiction of this goal.”

Read more ....

ANOTHER FIVE YEARS OF TOXIC POLLUTION BY ESKOM

Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 24 February 2015 – The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has today announced its decision to approve almost all  Eskom’s applications to postpone compliance with atmospheric emission standards for 14 of its coal-fired power stations [1].

A condition of these postponements is that Eskom is required to “implement an offset programme to reduce [particulate matter] pollution in the ambient/receiving environment. A definite offset implementation plan is expected from Eskom by 31 March 2016”.

As civil society organisations who work with and support many affected communities in South Africa’s pollution hotspots, we are extremely disappointed with the DEA’s decision simply to allow Eskom to continue to pollute in excess of what has been agreed as safe standards of emissions for another five years. Furthermore, the decisions themselves are slapdash, with no attempt to set strict and enforceable conditions to ensure that Eskom comes into compliance in the next five years. This shows a complete disregard for DEA’s constitutional responsibility to protect the health of South Africans.

Read more ....

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