South Africa's massive new Medupi coal-fired power plant under construction.
By Oliver Meth
September 24, 2014 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- The climate alarm is ringing and until now the African National Congress (ANC) led government has failed to act.
While scientific evidence and information on climate change gets more and more overpowering every day, the government still ignores its findings – by refusing to act.
Luthuli House and the Pretoria headquarters have not been vocal on the issue.
Now, the announcement of Russia and South Africa’s nuclear deal is no surprise, as the Voice of Russia in November last year was quoted as saying a deal on nuclear power in South Africa had been struck with the government. More recently, minister of energy Tina Joematt-Pettersson said in her budget speech on July 21 that "nuclear expansion option is a central feature in our future energy mix".
However, the planned investment comes against warnings by the National Planning Commission, which drafted the National Development Plan (NDP) -- a document setting down principles for the country's economic future -- that South Africa should think twice about nuclear energy.
Furthermore, the evidence that government claims to have a mandate from South Africans is “greenwash” – a lie! Very few citizens know the threats and advantages of nuclear power. By pushing this deal forward, the ANC-led government has clearly demonstrated that it is undemocratic and puts profits before people.
So, let’s be frank about this. Climate change is been ignored and it seems, minister Edna Molewa’s Department of Environmental Affairs has long been using the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a tool for government, multinational corporations and financiers to force a neoliberal agenda and profit from the crisis.
While the ANC’s 2014 election manifesto did not make specific mention of any particular planned efforts to address climate change, the ANC-led government has adopted a relatively coherent (on paper at least) climate change response strategy. They’ve made international commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and made relatively progressive noises about the need to transition to a low-carbon economy.
But, critics have pointed to the construction of Medupi and Kusile -- the world’s largest coal-fired power stations, set in a water-scarce region -- as locking us into an environmentally unsound and high-carbon future. Despite this, Molewa and her cronies continue their premeditated murderous acts.
So, as roads lead to Lima COP20 this year, it is essential for the South African government to work on an ambitious plan before the expected Paris agreement takes effect.
Especially on how to increase action and means of implementation in renewable energy, energy efficiency and land use taking into account the series of workshops that parties had recently.
And, as part of the People’s Mobilisation Campaign, we need to demand action -- action now -- from our leaders! This is necessary as part of the counterbalance to the bureaucratic, government-focused negotiations at the opulent UN Climate Summit talks.
People’s Mobilisation gives us a chance to speak in our own language and terms, in a way we understand best. The government delegates and representatives of major international non-governmental organisations on the inside of these talks are often far removed from the realities on the ground. Different avenues are needed to make concrete, on-the-ground change – there’s no better time than now!
One of the critical issues that need to be addressed is the Green Climate Fund. We need to ensure that it is funded enough to support the requisite US$100 billion per year, required for climate adaptation and mitigation, as soon as possible.
This Climate Summit in New York presents an excellent opportunity for countries to make their initial pledges. COP20 must provide clarity on how developed countries intend to meet their pledge of increasing climate finance to 100bn per year by 2020.
The impact of climate change has already been felt in several parts of the countries’ vulnerable areas. But, Molewa’s false solutions being promoted displace and exploit people, destroy the environment and worsen climate change. This is quite evident with the mega Transnet Pipeline Project been constructed.
The pipeline expansion will double oil flow from South Durban to Johannesburg. The project is not pro-people and is a call for major climate catastrophe.
The climate crisis is our greatest challenge. We need to resist these flawed talk-shop processes and establish a vision for a changeover to sustainable energy systems.
Now is the time for communities to recognise that the climate crisis affects us and to participate in this global movement. We need a real plan that requires knowledge of the political environment and entities involved in understanding the real versus false solutions that the government spews.
We need to hold the government accountable; we cannot allow yet another COP offering the world climate racism, ecocide and genocide of an unprecedented scale.
[Oliver Meth is a social advocacy journalist and a member of African Youth Initiative on Climate Change. You can network with him via twitter @oliver_meth.]