Urgent action required on climate, says Greenpeace

2013-10-07 14:32
Extreme weather events may become the norm if policymakers ignore climate science. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Extreme weather events may become the norm if policymakers ignore climate science. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - It's time to act urgently on implementing the decisions that will limit the impact of climate change, an environmental activist organisation has urged.

"The science is clear: Humans are driving climate change. Greenpeace believes that the IPCC's latest report and the science behind climate change should be convincing enough to make world leaders move with urgency on comprehensive climate policy," Melita Steele, Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner told News24.

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently conducted its Fifth Assessment Report on climate and the possible causes and impact.

The organisation says that the evidence for human caused climate change is over 95% and urged policymakers to begin the implementation phase of strategies to limit the impact of the feedback effect.

Scientists have calculated that if warming exceeds 2°C from pre-industrial times, extreme weather events may become the norm.

Coal-fired plants

"Unfortunately the reality is that comprehensive climate policy is only one element of the action that is necessary: Policy is useless without implementation. And implementation of policy has to deal with a rapid reduction in fossil fuels," said Steele.

In SA, the government is going ahead with the development of the giant coal-fired power plants Medupi and Kusile, despite several delays and allegations of poor workmanship.

While Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba expressed his displeasure at the delays, he appeared to backtrack from his earlier statement that officials would be fired over project delays.

"It was on this basis that as the shareholder representative, I had made very strong statements and held the parties accountable to the deadline. I had to put everyone under pressure to deliver. I have held a very firm view that everything must be done to comply with the project schedule of December 2013 and that all the parties, particularly the contractors, must fulfil their obligations," Gigaba said at the Eskom post-AGM media briefing at Megawatt Park.

Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom recently expressed his reservations about a third proposed plant, dubbed "Coal 3".

Huge amounts of water are used when a coal power plant generates electricity. Poisonous gases released when coal-powered energy is generated induce climate change affecting temperatures and rainfall," Beeld quoted him as saying.


Greenpeace said that climate change was squarely within the realm of social justice.

Social justice

Experts generally agree that many poor countries will feel the effects of climate change on water resources and food production, even though they did not participate in the industrial revolution largely blamed for the spike in greenhouse gas emissions.

"In addition, climate policy cannot be utilised in isolation: Climate change is a cross-cutting issue that affects the development pathways of countries, access to increasingly scarce water supplies and the increased likelihood of extreme weather events. This is not merely an environmental issue - it is a social justice issue," said Steele.

Greenpeace said that urban South Africans should become more aware of how the global climate may impact on bread-and-butter issues.

"While they may be in a better position to cope than rural communities, urban areas are not immune to food, water or electricity shortages," said Ruth Mhlanga, Greenpeace Africa Youth and Solutions campaigner.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    ipcc  |  greenpeace africa  |  climate change

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