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Youth call for Uncommon Leadership from Creecy

Durban’s Youth4ClimateAction has sent an appeal to Minister Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries:

“Dear Honorable Minister Creecy,

Appeal for Declaration of a Climate Emergency

After our recent strikes you asked how declaring a climate crisis would help people implement solutions, since your belief is that we all want solutions and signing the Paris accord signifies our government’s acknowledgement of “a problem[1]”. You declared your focus as being one of implementation. Our concern rests with some solutions that have been determined and the time-scale of their implementation. We believe that acknowledging that South Africa has a climate emergency is the first step in clarifying the threat of global warming to the nation, alerting industry and the citizenry to behavior changes consistent with holding warming to below 2°C for our mutual benefit.

We understand that ministers serving a genuine popular thirst for action can do more than any other system to limit the warming that can be forestalled and cope with that which cannot. We also understand that you walk the line between protecting the climate and sheltering the soon-to-be-left-behind coal economy[2]. What we don’t understand is our government’s strategic objective to escalate oil and gas production, with the assumption that South Africa can burn all of our proven reserves, along with any additional reserves discovered, as your ministry delineates a just transition to decarbonisation. 

The science is clear that new fossil fuel development, including gas, poses a threat to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) climate goals. Phasing out gas, coal and oil is key to meeting these goals[3]. Operation Phakisa’s Oil and Gas Stream is not sustainable, is significantly harmful to marine and land ecosystems, comes with extreme climate and environmental risks, risks to fisheries and tourism and makes a mockery of the sound environmental management function provided for in Section 24 of the Bill of Rights, our commitment to the Paris Accord and your departmental mandate. 

Should the offshore wells produce the promised nine billion barrels of oil[4], just the oil (let alone the gas) would contribute an additional 3.888 billion tons of CO2emission to the atmosphere. This means that the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has given it equal prominence as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement’s in its work plans. It is crucial that your ministry responds to the public/youth on how this stands as environmental due diligence or an implementation sensitive to ecological limits? 

The longer we wait the more CO2needs to be removed from the atmosphere. To conflate the exploitation of hydrocarbons with sustainable, economic development facilitates marginalisation of the climate crisis. Government is trying to promote gas as a “bridge” fuel, ‘low carbon’ energy solution. The harder government peddles the idea the more the impetus for prompt emission reduction diminishes and the delays mean a serious problem with removing the excess later, in a destabilized world with much suffering. Reaction and adaption are less effective than ensuring negative emissions. Climate crisis threatens to derail poverty reduction and economic empowerment the longer it is left. 

Our request is that you treat the climate crisis not as a political issue but one of survival. What we ask is for uncommon leadership from you that could initiate climate recovery. As much as we,the youth, hold you to South Africa’s Paris Agreement, we also understand thiswas never a problem your office could expect to manage alone. The only way to drive transformative change, bringing the centrality of climate change to each energy-related decision, is to declare a climate and ecological emergency to inspire rapid mass action.

Please visit @The ClimateEmergencySA to see our #CreecyWeCare campaign.With your care about nature and biodiversity, we are your biggest allies. No one has a bigger stake in protecting and securing our lands and seas and the life within them than we do.

Youth 4 Climate Action sprang froma coalition of KZN youth: individual, schools and organisations coming together to Climate Strike action in March 2019. We stand against South Africa’s continued fossil fuel dependence and call for a moratorium on all fossil fuel development. Organisations that have helped facilitate our events are: South African Youth Climate Coalition, Oceans Not Oil, Earthlife Africa Durban and the South Durban Community Environment Alliance, Greenpeace Africa Durban, 350.org Durban, Frack Free SA Extinction Rebellion Cape Town, People’s Climate Durban, WildOceansSA.

We look forward to your response,

Sincerely,

Youth4ClimateAction: Climate Emergency South Africa committee:
Tyron Dolloway
Abigail Garner
Fundile Maqhekeza
Roxanne Mingay
Siyabonga Nontlanga
Ruby Reim
Presha Sonogram”


[1]https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/nation-needs-to-work-together-against-climate-change-creecy-20190711

[2]“it would still see South Africa complete nearly 6GW of costly coal capacity currently under construction and commission another 1.5GW of new coal capacity by 2030″.IRP2019 includes a detailed phase-out plan for coal-fired power plants, which, despite improvements to earlier plans, still shows that substantial amounts of coal capacity will run beyond the year 2050. For Paris-compatibility, coal must be phased out globally, at the very latest by 2040.” Dec 2019 report – https://climateactiontracker.org/countries/south-africa/

[3]As Matthias Kimmel of BNEF stated, “[e]ven if we decommissioned all the world’s coal plants by 2035, the power sector would still be tracking above a climate-safe trajectory, burning too much unabated gas. Getting to two degrees requires a zero-carbon solution. – Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “BatteriesBoom Enables World to Get Half of ElectricityFrom Wind and Solar by 2050” June 19, 2018,https://about.bnef.com/blog/batteriesboom-enables-world-get-half-electricitywind-solar-2050/

[4]Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration, Available at: https://www.operationphakisa.gov.za/operations/oel/oilGas/Pages/default.aspx

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