Protecting the planet: Scores welcome climate train to Pietermaritzburg

2011-11-28 00:00

THE buzz around COP17 reached fever pitch in Pietermaritzburg as the Climate Train arrived in the capital to a warm welcome by scores of people at the the weekend.

The train arrived in Durban yesterday after criss-crossing the country. It carries activists who are educating the public about the need to protect the environment.

At Pietermaritzburg station activists and co-ordinators were kept busy as scores of pupils and members of the public pressed them for information about how to play their part in protecting the planet.

Pupils from local schools who participated in the Earth Forum social sculpture at the Pietermaritzburg station said they would make sure that their classmates who couldn’t make it to the station will be told about the importance of protecting the Earth.

Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development MEC Meshack Radebe said it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure that the Earth is protected.

“We can make a difference by cutting down on smoking and on the use of coal, protecting plants and growing trees so that they can protects us,” said Radebe.

Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela said the city plans to work more closely with the department to make the city green.

The Climate Train stayed in the city for a day and left yesterday morning for Durban, to be greeted by a host of dignitaries, including the executive secretary of the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, and eThekwini speaker Rogie Naidoo.

Figueres told a gathering at the station that the train was a unique concept in her experience of 16 previous UN conferences.

Said June Josephs-Langa, chief executive of Indalo Yethu National Environment Agency, the project co-ordinator for the Climate Train, “Throughout the consultation on the national climate change response policy with ordinary people there was a constant call for education and information about climate change.

“Some people could not contribute as they felt they needed to understand the science first.”

She said Indalo Yethu as the national environment agency decided that it could respond to that call with its partners to engage the nation in a conversation about climate change.

“The Climate Train conversation also had to be an opportunity to hear how climate change is affecting people and how they are responding.”

Josephs-Langa said communities have told them about their hardship, challenges and struggles in a changing climate environment.

She said it is clear that climate change and its resulting adverse weather impacts have “devastating consequences for Africa and developing countries, including small island states whose very existence is under threat by the visible encroachment of sea on land”.

She highlighted increases in flooding and drought and said the rise of new disease strains brings an additional burden to countries whose citizens are already just managing to survive.

“This struggle is about those who are least responsible not being made to carry the burden for a crisis it has least contributed to.

“This struggle is for the poor and vulnerable communities who have little carbon footprint to mitigate, but who will have little means to adapt to the changes they need to make in order to survive.

“In the villages and towns in the seven provinces of South Africa that we have visited, we have seen and heard the struggles of people,” she said.

• mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

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