Climate Justice: Andile Mlambo vs John Kane-Berman

TWO environment pieces illustrate diametrically opposed views in SA: “We are experiencing a climate renaissance in my community, Tembisa, evident by the renewed interest — from the youth, the middle aged and the elderly — in climate issues” writes Andile Mlambo. Meanwhile John Kane-Berman has penned an article which claims “”Climate justice” is a nice term for a set of arrogant, economically damaging, cynical, cruel, and inhuman policies.”

So while Mlambo reports local communities are raising “the banner of “climate justice now” in defiance of the grim face of energy institutions that perpetuate the misconception that those who are not sufficiently pale-skinned neither care about nor understand the effects of fossil fuel emissions — on their health, food security and their fertility.”

The Institute for Race Relation’s John Kane Berman has deemed it fit to speak on behalf of disadvantaged communities, those who are already benefiting from climate aid, claiming that “Africans are being fooled by eco-imperialism”, and that “many South African non-governmental organisations and members of the communications media have bought into “net zero”, which is now the dominant ideology of the Western world.”

As a result, he claims, “They habitually oppose mining development. They want to put a stop to oil and gas exploration. And, of course, they want to shut down Eskom’s coal-fired power stations.”

One could not get more disconnected from the scientific reality of climate heating, nor wrong-headed about our country”s own contribution to the problem. South Africa currently produces more GHG than the UK, a country with double the population. The attempt by Kane-Berman to deflect support for a just transition by attacking the massive R131bn aid package which is the hallmark of Cyril Ramaphosa’s participation in the last COP round, is indicative of a myopic right-wing agenda which sees growing opposition to oil and gas as an opportunity to recast themes once associated with the struggle against apartheid.

Thus Kane-Berman drapes himself in the regalia of Pan-Africanism, whilst trotting out denialist sophistry that serve nothing more than to sugar-coat a propaganda piece on behalf of aggressive oil and gas exploration pursued by the likes of Shell, and recently interdicted by poor black communities living along the Wild Coast.

It should come as no surprise that the exact same form of faithwashing of the oil industry has come from the likes of Gwede Mantashe who recently claimed that objecting to the seismic testing was a ‘special type of apartheid”.

The idea that since the West has benefited from fossil fuel exploitation in the past, South Africa should be given an opportunity to do the same moving into the future, and that ‘net zero’ is simply an ‘ideology of the West’, needs to be dispensed with as a dangerous conceit. ‘Net zero’ is the bare minimum required to avoid global temperatures increasing by more than 1.5 degrees celsius. This is via all estimates garnered by climate scientists representing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body which includes micronations and the rest of the world, not simply “the West”.

One could do a lot better by simply focusing on ‘climate debt’, the debt owed to the world by those who have embarked on fossil fuel exploitation first, instead of advocating for extra time in which to exploit. The past 7 years have been the hottest on record, and the world is about to get a lot hotter.

Both Kane-Berman and Mantashe ignore the reality that what is urgently required is a ‘carbon negative economy’, one which deals with the cumulative impact of GHG emissions over time. In other words, we really should be offsetting our GHG emissions by at least a factor of two to three, if we wish to avoid the catastrophe which is already locked into our own government’s planning around the issue.

It is highly irresponsible and foolish for anyone occupying a position of authority to suggest otherwise.

SEE South Africa’s coastlines are a biodiversity hotspot

Indigenous Peoples Condemn Climate Talks Fiasco and Demand Moratoria on REDD+

December 13, 2011 – Indigenous leaders returning from Durban, South Africa condemn the fiasco of the United Nations climate change talks and demand a moratorium on a forest carbon offset scheme called REDD+ which they say threatens the future of humanity and Indigenous Peoples’ very survival. During the UN climate negotiations, a Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD+ and for Life was formed to bring attention to the lack of full recognition of Indigenous rights being problematic in the texts of the UN climate negotiations.

“It was very disappointing that our efforts to strengthen the vague Indigenous rights REDD safeguards from the Cancun Agreements evaporated as the Durban UN negotiations went on. It is clear that the focus was not on strong, binding commitments on Indigenous rights and safeguards, nor limiting emissions, but on creating a framework for financing and carbon markets, which they did. Now Indigenous Peoples’ forests may really be up for grabs,” says Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel participating in the Indigenous Environmental Network delegation.

Berenice Sanchez of the Mesoamerica Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network says, “Instead of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% like we need, the UN is promoting false solutions to climate change like carbon trading and offsets, through the Clean Development Mechanism and the proposed REDD+ which provide polluters with permits to pollute. The UN climate negotiation is not about saving the climate, it is about privatization of forests, agriculture and the air.”

Tom Goldtooth, Director of Indigenous Environmental Network based in Minnesota, USA does not mince words. “By refusing to take immediate binding action to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions, industrialized countries like the United States and Canada are essentially incinerating Africa and drowning the small island states of the Pacific. The sea ice of the Inupiat, Yupik and Inuit of the Arctic is melting right before their eyes, creating a forced choice to adapt or perish. This constitutes climate racism, ecocide and genocide of an unprecedented scale.”

Of particular concern for indigenous peoples is a forest offset scheme known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Hyped as a way of saving the climate and paying communities to take care of forests as sponges for Northern pollution, REDD+ is rife with fundamental flaws that make it little more than a green mask for more pollution and the expansion of monoculture tree plantations. The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD+ and for Life, formed at the Durban UN climate negotiations, call for an immediate moratorium on REDD+-type projects because they fear that REDD+ could result in “the biggest land grab of all time,” thus threatening the very survival of indigenous peoples and local communities.

“At Durban, CDM and REDD carbon and emission offset regimes were prioritized, not emission reductions. All I saw was the UN, World Bank, industrialized countries and private investors marketing solutions to market pollution. This is unacceptable. The solutions for climate change must not be placed in the hands of financiers and corporate polluters. I fear that local communities could increasingly become the victims of carbon cowboys, without adequate and binding mechanisms to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples and local forested and agricultural communities are respected,” Goldtooth added.

“We call for an immediate moratorium on REDD+-type policies and projects because REDD is a monster that is already violating our rights and destroying our forests,” Monica González of the Kukapa People and Head of Indigenous Issues of the Mexican human rights organization Comision Ciudadana de Derechos Humanos del Noreste.

The President of the Ogiek Council of Elders of the Mau Forest of Kenya, Joseph K. Towett, said “We support the moratorium because anything that hurts our cousins, hurts us all.”

“We will not allow our sacred Amazon rainforest to be turned into a carbon dump. REDD is a hypocrisy that does not stop global warming,” said Marlon Santi, leader of the Kichwa community of Sarayaku, Ecuador and long time participant of UN and climate change meetings.

Health leaders call for urgent action on climate

Durban — International health leaders in Durban for the global climate talks have called on negotiators to push for the most ambitious commitments possible, warning that the direction of current negotiations risks the lives of billions of people around the globe.

Over 200 leaders from more than 30 countries have issued a Declaration and Call to Action following a Global Climate and Health Summit.

“No-one is immune from the health impacts of climate change; people in developed and developing nations are all at risk,” said Dr Hugh Montgomery from Climate and Health Council, UK.

“Without bold action by governments, climate change will magnify existing health crises,” said Dr Rajendra Niadoo, from Nelson R. Mandela Medical School in Durban.

Doctors, nurses, public health experts, health and medical scientists, medical students, and health officials from major international health organizations are meeting in Durban to try and influence negotiations by raising awareness about the health risks of climate change and the health benefits of climate action.

“Strong climate policy is an investment in people’s health,” said Fiona Armstrong of the Climate and Health Alliance, Australia.

The delegates have called for a fair, ambitious and binding global treaty, and urged all countries to commit to immediate strong climate action to protect and promote health.

“If governments agree to delay for another decade, history will judge Durban as a moment of global political malpractice,” said Josh Karliner, Health Care Without Harm.

“I’m a 21 year old medical student, and these negotiations have been carrying on my entire life. If we don’t reach a legally binding agreement on climate change soon, the protection and promotion of public health will be seriously undermined, world-wide.” said Nick Watts of the International Medical Students Association.

Delegates agree the urgent replacement of fossil fuel-based energy with clean renewable energy is vital, saying fossil fuels cause “immense harm” to both climate and health, and urge negotiators to commit to equitable contributions to a green climate fund to assist adaptation and mitigation strategies to support human health.

They have themselves committed to action to cut emissions in the health sector, and have urged health professionals worldwide to engage in advocacy for climate action, to help prevent unprecedented loss of life and human suffering.