Wednesday, July 29, 2015

South Africans Against Climate Change

The battle against climate change is a world war. South Africa is in the front lines. Anti-nuclear energy activists are up in arms, and have taken to vigils outside South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town to protest against President Jacob Zuma’s push for nuclear development. The protest has been building since September 2014 when Zuma struck a deal with Russia’s Rossatom to build up to eight nuclear power stations in South Africa. The stations would cost the country around 1 trillion South African rands (84 billion dollars). The Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI), an interdenominational faith-based environment initiative led by Bishop Geoff Davies, has said the government’s nuclear policy is not only foolish but immoral.
“SAFCEI does not believe that nuclear energy is an answer to climate change but is a distraction likely to bankrupt the country [South Africa] and lead to further energy impoverishment” – Liziwe McDaid, energy advisor for the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute. SAFCEI is demanding that the government take a fresh look at its drive for nuclear energy. Liziwe McDaid, SAFCEI’s energy advisor argues for a much greater rollout of renewable energy is the key to shifting the carbon-intensive energy sector towards a sustainable low carbon future. “SAFCEI does not believe that nuclear energy is an answer to climate change but is a distraction likely to bankrupt the country and lead to further energy impoverishment.”

David Hallowes researcher and editor of Slow Poison for groundWork, another climate change pressure group, feels South Africa is not doing enough on adaptation. “Government is still allowing mining and industry to poison water and land in key catchments and agricultural areas,” adding that the result is that climate impacts will be amplified. The same plants and developments that are driving climate change are poisoning and killing people, animals and plants that are in the path of pollution, “so the people’s struggles for an environment not harmful to their health and wellbeing are also climate struggles.” According to Hallowes, “there are different views on what can be achieved with renewable energy. We do not think it can power infinite economic growth and hence we do not believe it can sustain a capitalist economy. In the short term, we think we should be looking for a reduction in energy consumption. The question is who gets it for what.” He goes on to explain “We think we should have a programme that creates democratic ownership and control of renewable energy at different levels from community or settlement, to municipality to national. We call it energy sovereignty.  The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa calls it social ownership. It’s the same thing.” The groundWork researcher said that CSOs want to see an end to new coal developments, such as new mines or power stations. “I think everyone agrees but don’t necessarily mean the same thing. For some, it’s just a matter of jobs. We think it means the transformation of the economy towards equality and freedom that is democratic control rather than plutocratic control.”

Muna Lakhani, founder and national coordinator of the Institute for Zero Waste in Africa (IZWA), is equally concerned that government is not doing enough to fight climate change.
 “Our government sees too much of ‘business as usual’ and is very lax in implementing even the minimal legislation, such as air quality permits, carbon taxes and the like,” he says. According to Lakhani, CSOs are mostly united on key issues, such as the call for no more fossil fuel, a bigger push for renewables, and promoting local resilience especially of poorer communities and the generally disadvantaged.

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