The people say ‘no more carbon’, the scientists say ‘no more carbon’ but governments and corporates ignore - groundWork statement on the occasion of the UNFCCC COP 24 Gathering in Katowice, Poland, 03 - 14 December 2018.

03 December 2018 - In July this year, scientists from leading climate institutions warned of “the risk that self-reinforcing feedbacks could push the Earth System toward a planetary threshold that, if crossed, could prevent stabilization of the climate at intermediate temperature rises and cause continued warming on a ‘Hothouse Earth’ pathway even as human emissions are reduced”.[1] They emphasise that cascading feedbacks – where crossing one tipping point sets off the next – may be triggered at between 1.5° and 2°C warming above pre-industrial temperatures. This is runaway climate change leading to unliveable ‘hothouse earth’ conditions.

Warming is now at over 1°C above the 1850-1900 average. If pre-industrial is taken to be 1750, as used to be the case, warming is now at 1.2°C. This is already dangerous climate change: people are experiencing extreme heat, drought, hurricanes and floods; and some critical tipping points may be tipping but we won’t know for certain until after the event. The impacts at 1.5°C will be much more severe, particularly for the poorest half of the world’s people, and the impacts at 2°C exponentially more severe, as International Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5°C, published in early October, has shown. The collapse of agriculture is already threatened in some regions – notably in Africa, including the Western Cape – and the collapse of global fisheries from ocean warming and acidification, as well as industrial over-fishing, is in process.

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC AR5) showed that the global carbon budget for a one-in-two (50%) chance of avoiding 1.5°C is all but used up. These calculations did not account for feedbacks or for the reduction of sulphur aerosols – which have a cooling effect – that necessarily accompanies the reduction in carbon emissions. The budget for a two-in-three (66%) chance of avoiding 2°C is similarly depleted. If global emissions peak by 2020, they will need to decline to zero before 2040, also without accounting for feedbacks or the reduction in sulphur aerosols. [3] This means that all countries, including South Africa, have less than twenty years to get to zero. Effectively, there is no carbon budget left to share out.

According to the “Lancet  Countdown:  Tracking  Progress  on  Health  and  Climate  Change” a lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of the national health systems they depend on, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.[4]

The present elite energy system in South Africa is locked into coal which destroys people’s health and livelhoods along with the land and water. . It has created an economy with 36% unemployment but the elite nevertheless ignore the need for an urgent Just Transition. This kind of response is not only evident here. It is also evident at the climate negotiations - the 24th Conference of the Parties - in Poland which is being sponsored by Poland’s largest coal corporations.This signals, not for the first time, that governments are in bed with the coal and other fossil fuel industries and willing to push  the world well beyond 2 degrees.

Over the last few months people’s organisations and movements together with environmental justice NGOs and the health sector have called on government to speedily move towards renewable energy and away from fossil fuels.  In South Africa, people’s submissions to parliament on the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and statements from people’s gatherings and protests against the extraction of oil and gas, have said no more fossil fuels - no more pollution - no more carbon. [5]



[1] Will Steffen, Johan Rockström, Katherine Richardson, Timothy Lenton, Carl Folke, Diana Liverman, Colin Summerhayes, Anthony Barnosky, Sarah Cornell, Michel Crucifix, Jonathan Donges, Ingo Fetzer, Steven Ladea, Marten Scheffer, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,

[2] IPCC, Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, October 2018.

[3] Rahmstorf, S. and A. Levermann, 2017. Why global emissions must peak by 2020, Preface to 2020: The Climate Turning Point, Carbon Tracker, Climate Action Tracker, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Yale University. Note that 600 Gt is the mean. The range is 150 to 1050 Gt, so the bottom end will be overtaken by 2020.

[4] The “Lancet  Countdown” is  a  global, independent interdisciplinary research  collaboration  between  27  academic  institutions  and  inter-governmental  organisations dedicated to tracking the health dimensions of the impacts of, and the response to, climate change..

[5] Statements from the National Gasdown Frackdown Gathering and the #banfracking gathering.



Bobby Peek
groundWork Director
+27 82 464 1383

David Hallowes
groundWork Head of Research
+27 83 262 4922