South Africa’s new Nationally Determined Contributions are delaying the Just Transition.

Government policies and processes fail to commit to decarbonization and building a climate resilient society by pushing for dirty fossil fuels that will accelerate climate change.

04 June 2021 - Organisations groundWork and Earthlife Africa (ELA) submitted comments on South Africa’s new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on 30th April 2021. And on 6th May 2021 community organisations Support Centre for Land Change (SCLC), Vukani Environmental Movement (VEM), Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA) and South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) attended the Presidential Climate Commission for Climate Change (P4C) on the NDCs. Communities expressed their concern that Government – and the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy (DMRE) in particular – equates a just transition with a slow transition even as it promotes further fossil fuel developments at all costs.

The Paris Agreement aims to keep global warming to “well below 2°C” and preferably less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has since made clear that 2° of warming will be disastrous and “rapid and far-reaching” changes to the economic system are needed to keep temperatures below 1.5°C – or even below 2°C.

To meet this target, global emissions must be reduced by half by 2030 and zero by 2050 and steeper reductions are needed to increase our odds of survival. However, the Paris Agreement relies exclusively on the combination of all the NDCs to meet the target and those submitted in the first round in 2015 added up to global warming of 4°C or more. The second round of NDCs is meant to ‘increase ambition’ but seems highly unlikely to keep us below 3°C, even if all countries do what they promise.

South Africa’s continued reliance on fossil fuels and delayed shift to renewable energy that is socially owned, will continue to make South Africa a pariah in climate justice circles.  SA needs to take urgent action now by clearly defining what it is going to do to phase out fossil fuels, by when, and why this needs to occur.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the country's response to climate change will be guided by the Presidential Coordinating Commission on Climate Change.  The Commission will work on a just transition to a low-carbon economy and a climate-resilient society, and ensure it is in consultation with the most vulnerable. The South African NDC statement says, “A just transition means leaving no-one behind”. But with no transition at all, and 60% of our country in poverty, people are already ‘left behind’.  Poverty and inequality have increased since 1994. Consultation for the NDC has been limited.

Climate change will weigh most heavily on the poor and vulnerable, and so addressing challenges and emerging solutions - including adaptation and mitigation measures - should come from here to ensure environmental and social transformation.

The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment needs to recognise that government’s primary obligation is to its people and climate response including the NDC should come from a single process of deep and continuing engagement with people within an open democracy framework.

In response to the NDC processes, communities demand that urgent steps be taken to meet our climate targets and prevent an accelerated climate crisis:

We call for acceleration of a just transition to a low carbon development to alleviate poverty and to avoid the climate catastrophic events which affects the marginalized communities” - Thabo Sibeko, Earthlife Africa

The (rural) poor are already bearing the brunt of climate change. Women who traditionally sustained their livelihoods through small-scale production or fishing are increasingly crippled by the climate crisis and climate disasters. The impact of fossil fuel extraction on ecosystems and the availability of marine resources to sustain people is most notable. Putting food on the table and maintaining lives of dignity have become insurmountable hurdles.” – Chriszanne, Support Centre for Land Change #BanFracking

“South Africa’s new Nationally Determined Contributions are rejected by the vulnerable majority, who are constantly abused by governments' policies and processes. The system needs to be dismantled completely because it puts profits in the hands of a few beneficiaries and keeps the vast majority of people living in abject poverty. A just transition must be inclusive and people-centered” – Shanice Firmin, SDCEA

“We really do not need any new coal or any fossil fuels.  Enough is enough. As women, we are suffering the consequences of coal on our health and the environment. We need a new energy system based on socially owned renewables with jobs in manufacturing, as well as construction, operations and maintenance.” – Promise Mabilo #CancelCoal, Vukani Environmental Movement

We need a faster transition to renewable energy and to stop all new fossil fuel developments. History will repeat its injustices of environmental racism, pollution of our water, land and air and impoverishment associated with fossil fuels. People’s suffering will be intensified with climate change impacts. We cannot afford to lock ourselves into more fossil fuels.  It is a death sentence for people, planet and the economy”. – Avena Jacklin, groundWork

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