South African civil society calls on government to boost national climate action
11 November 2014
South African civil society organisations have released a statement to their government calling for less talk and more national action to tackle climate change and boost the clean energy transition. These organisations collectively emphasise that human rights, like access to sufficient food and water, are directly threatened by climate change. They urge the South African government to protect these human rights by taking concerted action to shift away from dirty, resource intensive fossil fuels and harness instead the massive potential of clean, renewable energy. They also provide the South African government with a number of improvements that can be made at the national and sub-national levels to enhance the effectiveness of climate change dialogue and policy-making. You can read the full statement below:
Statement from concerned civil society organisations regarding the lack of ambition for the National Climate Change Dialogue
Climate change is the greatest challenge faced by human kind. Without determined political will and practical action by Government, business and society to tackle both the emissions that cause climate change and the adaptation needed to survive its impacts, we risk derailing development and putting the wellbeing and prosperity of the people of South Africa at risk. What is more, human activities that drive climate change are destroying biodiversity and ecosystems that are vital to our survival and that of future generations.
The time for words is over, we need action from the South African Government now. Many civil society organisations are therefore coming together to raise our collective voices at this critical point ahead of the next round of climate talks at COP20 in Lima this December.
South Africa faces a desperate fight for climate justice: many of our poorest communities are already living with the impacts of climate change. Global green house gas emissions continue to rise driving increases in extreme weather events such as drought, flooding and rising temperatures which are leaving people struggling with more water shortages and ever-rising food prices. These impacts fall hardest on the poorest and most vulnerable in our communities but they affect us all.
The South African constitution protects basic human rights including access for all to sufficient water and food and an environment that is not harmful to our health or wellbeing. All of these rights are threatened by climate change.
The President acknowledges that we are a water scarce country and that climate change will make the situation worse. So why is the Government looking at future coal power stations and increasing mining activity, when taking coal out of the ground then preparing and burning it uses huge amounts of water?
We seek a just transition for South Africa and its people away from the current and planned future dependency on coal, oil, gas and nuclear power toward a socially inclusive development path, built on renewable energy including solar and wind. The South African government must hold to its most ambitious emissions targets if we are to make our vital contribution to global emissions cuts and together hold average global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees.
As such we call on Government to reaffirm its commitment to pursuing not a ‘lower carbon economy’ but a truly inclusive low carbon economy by stopping investments and subsidies into the fossil fuel industry and choosing a pathway that increases investment in renewable energy to unlock greater access to electricity and that focuses on skills development and job creation in the renewable energy sector.
We are calling on the South African government to show much greater ambition and match words with actions, to stick to and enforce its most ambitious targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. South Africa must also stand alongside its fellow developing countries, calling on the developed countries that have caused climate change, to do much more to cut their emissions and deliver on the finance and technology transfer needed to support adaptation in developing countries.
To do this effectively, it is time for Government to walk the talk and deliver on its promises. Government has set emissions and policy targets that it is already missing. Fine policies are not enough, we must see real political will to drive the climate change agenda in a coherent way across government, so that development planning takes account of the inter-relations between energy, water, agriculture and food sovereignty.
The ongoing Integrated Energy Planning (IEP) process, which is expected to deliver a final report with a national energy ‘Road Map’ for Cabinet approval this financial year, is the most fundamental indication of government’s commitment to effective climate change response and inclusive development.
All national and provincial departments – not just the Department of Environmental Affairs – must accelerate putting in place co-ordinated plans to both mitigate for and adapt to climate change, and then get on with delivering interventions that will protect and enhance the lives of all South Africans.
It is the South African people who will bear the full force of climate change so it is the wellbeing and livelihoods of people that should be paramount in efforts to address the issue rather than the interests of those businesses which contribute the most to emissions.
It is disappointing that the National Climate Change Dialogue favours big business and the current economic paradigm while excluding many of the communities already fighting against increased hunger, water shortages, falling crop yields and lack of access to electricity.
Our organisations re-commit to ensuring that engagement takes place around national development policy, including over the next year as the UNFCCC negotiations move toward COP21 in Paris. Now Government must commit to and guarantee that it will enable regular, meaningful participation of civil society and communities affected by climate change in policy development and implementation.
We call for transparency and high ambition in the process of setting emission reduction targets per economic sector (the Desired Emission Reduction Outcomes). Undertakings by businesses to meet ‘carbon budgets’ should be made public. The work of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change needs to be accounted for. All affected parties must be kept appraised of the nature and content of these processes.
Climate change is happening now. It is affecting the lives of all South Africans. It is time for the South African Government to act, not talk, if we are to avoid worsening hunger, water scarcity and poverty.
The organisations here listed endorse this statement:
Project 90 by 2030
Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI)
Oxfam in SA
World Wildlife Fund
350.org Africa & Arab world Region
Fossil Free South Africa