groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)
Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg)

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 [1], 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.

The Highveld Environmental Justice Network, the South African Waste Pickers’ Association, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance and the Women Energy and Climate Change Forum were part of the contingent of organisations at parliament that do not endorse the South African government attending the 21st Conference of the Parties (CoP21) at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on the basis of present positions.

Today’s public hearings held in parliament [2] were for civil society to respond to government’s position on climate change and the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) [3] that the government will take to Paris in December.

Tristen Taylor, Coordinator of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg [4] stated:

“As they stand, South Africa’s INDCs will eat into the carbon space of less developed countries. In effect, South Africa’s supposed commitments will mean that the country will continue with the same industrial policy. It is this same approach to economic growth which is what needs to change drastically if any progress is to be made on meaningful climate policy in this country.”

Lobbying the Davis Tax Committee earlier this year [5], the Chemical and Allied Industries Association (CAIA stated that it “does not support South Africa’s continued development of climate change policy, including that of the carbon tax”. Sasol similarly argued that South Africa should not make any firm mitigation offers at the Paris negotiations, that it is already doing enough and that a carbon tax is a bad idea.

According to a report released in 2012 by Dara, “if critical global action is not taken to reduce greenhouse gases emissions now, the human toll could exceed 100 million deaths in the next 15 years.” These deaths are as a result of hunger and communicable diseases that mostly affect those risk groups, such as children and the elderly, in ‘developing countries’.

Addressing the portfolio committee, Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork stated:

“Costs to mitigate climate change need to be internalised by government if thousands of lives are to be saved. Climate change is already upon us and while some quite serious damage is now unavoidable, certain losses can still be reduced in the short term. These can be achieved by ensuring clean air regulations, safer working conditions and modern energy options for people at risk due to carbon-intensive forms of energy. All these measures will save lives but take the necessary political will to move towards an equitable and clean energy system.”

After 21 years and with an increasing number of droughts, heat waves and floods, the UNFCCC CoP negotiations, however, are clearly not making progress.

[1] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International
[3] groundWork’s press release and submission on the Intended Nationally Determined Commitments (INDC) to the Department of Environmental Affairs. Read the document here.
[4] Earthlife Africa seeks a better life for all people without exploiting other people or degrading their environment. Our aim is to encourage and support individuals, businesses and industries to reduce pollution, minimise waste and protect our natural resources.
[5] The Mail and Guardian, 17 July 2015. “Corporate SA promotes carbon myths”, by David Hallowes

Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Campaign Manager, groundWork
(W): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
(M): +27 (0) 83 450 5541

Bobby Peek
Director, groundWork
(W): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
(M): +27 (0) 82 464 1383

Tristen Taylor
Coordinator, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg
Tel (w): +27 (0) 11 339 3662
Mobile: +27 (0) 84 250 2434