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