groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)

We can’t count on the Paris Agreement to stop climate change

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 20 April 2016 – The Paris Climate Agreement will this Friday be signed by representatives of over 130 nations, including South Africa, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. According to environmental justice organisation groundWork [1], the commitments made in Paris were too late and too weak. This means that the hope to keep the temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees has been overshot. 

This signing on by parties brings them one step closer towards ratifying a meaningless agreement through national parliaments in most cases – with nations turning their intended pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (known as INDCs) into their agreed actual climate contribution to the climate effort.

This does not bring the world closer to a real solution for climate change. To the contrary, it stands in the way of real solutions. The world’s leaders are calling on us to have faith in them but the call is made in bad faith; the world’s leaders are leading us to ever growing destruction.

After 21 years of negotiations groundWork believes that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will not save the planet and the millions of people who are least to blame for climate change, but will nevertheless pay with their lives.

According to Bobby Peek, Director of groundWork, “In the case of South Africa, our government will sign this agreement while continuing to pushing ahead with coal-based energy, fracking, off-shore gas and nuclear energy. This is completely incompatible with trying to stop climate change. We demand a stop to this energy system. ”

Civil society’s Fair Shares Report [2] on the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) makes it clear that the process is a sham and the commitments made in Paris according to scientists will take us way beyond the 1.5 degree increase in global temperature.

The ‘fair share’ is what each country should do to keep the world within the limited and declining carbon budget; looking at how much more greenhouse gas can be put into the atmosphere before exceeding 1.5°C. The climate science is clear that breaching the 1.5 degree guardrail poses an unacceptable risk of crossing irreversible tipping points, impacting billions of people.

Neither the Paris Agreement nor its formal signing this week will safeguard our planet from the ravages of the climate catastrophe.

groundWork calls on big NGOs to walk away from the failed process of the UNFCCC.

At a local level to combat climate change there needs to be a just transition from fossil fuel based energy to renewable energy, which is locally owned by the people who use it. The alternative to fossil fuel based energy production is renewable energy like sun and wind power that does not rely on dirty and destructive practices of extraction and combustion, and does not pollute people’s health and environment.

[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.
[2] “Fair Shares: A civil society equity review of the INDCs”


Bobby Peek, groundWork Director
Tel (w): 033 342 5662
Tel (m): 082 464 1383

Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Manager
groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa

Tel (w): +27 33 342 5662
Tel (m): +27 83 450 5541