SA govt lacking 'vision and urgency' on the climate crisis - Greenpeace

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President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the summit chaired by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres. (Twitter, Presidency)
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressing the summit chaired by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres. (Twitter, Presidency)

The South African government says the right things about climate change, but continues to do the wrong things, global environmental activist group Greenpeace said after President Cyril Ramaphosa raised the issue at the G7 Summit.

Addressing the working session on climate, biodiversity and oceans, Ramaphosa expressed South Africa's commitment to the mitigation of climate change, and to a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy that will protect jobs and livelihoods and give communities equitable, affordable access to emerging alternatives in energy.

"The pollution challenge can only be addressed if the international community achieves sustainable levels of consumption," Ramaphosa said, according to a video on the Presidency's Twitter feed.

"I think it is important that we should live up to our Paris commitments because developing economies will need quite a lot of assistance. And in our case, we're going to need assistance in the transition process to move away from fossils. We've got those communities who are involved in the fossil production range or areas. We've got to give them a just transition so that they don't resist our transition from fossil to renewables," Ramaphosa told the other world leaders.

In response, Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa's senior political advisor, said Ramaphosa's "charm offensive at the G7 is a clear indication of how the South African government is still able to say all the right things, yet consistently does the wrong things when implementation beckons".

"The President's priorities at the G7 were clear: To situate South Africa as an international investment destination while projecting the country as a willing and progressive actor on climate change. A closer reading of the statements reveals the reality, which is that the South African government still lacks vision and comprehension of the urgency around the climate crisis," he said according to a statement.

Khambule said South Africa is in a climate emergency and there is an urgent need to mitigate emissions, but there is also a need for adaptation to increase resilience and decrease the country's vulnerability to the extreme impacts of the climate crisis.

"Greenpeace Africa commends the president for highlighting some key issues, such as the just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but this does not reconcile with continued investments in coal. The fact that the South African government does not have a semblance of a just transition plan indicates how seriously the state takes the transition – or doesn't.

"With global sectors and investments moving towards a post-carbon world, South Africa risks undertaking an unjust transition with its sectors unaccounted for and no programme to address emerging impacts on them," said Khambule.

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