Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Earthlife Africa Press Release: The climate circus is in town!

An international conference concerned with clean air, the International Union of Air Pollution Prevention Association’s (IUAPPA) “Clean Air Congress” in Cape Town at the end of September, is being sponsored by some of South Africa’s biggest air polluters.

Sasol (which is the emitter of the largest point source of climate changing greenhouse changing gases in the world); Eskom (who are currently requesting an exemption from compliance with South Africa’s National Air Quality Act and supporting plans to build yet a third mega-coal fired power station, notwithstanding radioactive emissions from its Koeberg nuclear power plant); Engen (with a long history of harm to residents of South Durban); Shell (linked to human rights and environmental violations in the Niger delta, and one of many who wish to carry out polluting hydraulic fracturing in our country) and Exarro, our 2nd largest coal mining company. We find it surprising that no mention is made of the fatally toxic and radioactive air pollution planned by the smelter plants of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) at Pelindaba.

“The Clean Air Congress is shown for what it is – an opportunity for South Africa’s Climate Clowns to sponsor a green-washing circus” said Muna Lakhani of Earthlife Africa Cape Town. “The irony is compounded by the fact that the Mayor of Cape Town and the MEC for the Western Cape (who are featured speakers at the Congress) support this process.”

Over 60 civil society organisations find this Congress problematic. An indication of the potential for “green-wash” can be found in the draft programme (fourth revision), which has as a heading “Health Impacts and Perceptions.”
“The health impacts of air pollution are not ‘perceptions’, they are a fact!” commented Des D’sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA). “Our children and other residents suffer from high rates of upper respiratory tract problems due to poor air quality in South Durban.” 

They are calling for companies to take responsibility for their actions, and for government to hold them accountable, in a transparent manner.

Roegshanda Pascoe, of the Manenberg development co-ordinating structure, says “Our people are hurting with the high and rising electricity prices, and with nuclear and more coal power stations, prices will just keep on escalating. Since the first price increases, we have seen an increase in domestic violence linked to unaffordability of electricity, and other social impacts. It is time government takes the steps necessary to change our vision to one of energy security for all, in a safe and sustainable way.”

Community members feel that government must take their lead from our Constitution, and fully engage civil society in our supposed “participative democracy” in fully informed and thorough consultation before taking decisions on behalf of communities, especially the poor.

The media is encouraged to cover this congress, and ask the questions that civil society are asking, viz:

  1. Why is a parastatal even asking for an exemption from our National Air Quality Act, when a substantial body of evidence confirms harm from coal fired power stations?
  2. Why is fracking even being considered, when it is at least as problematic as coal, certainly from a climate change perspective? Has nothing been learnt from water, land and air pollution impacts elsewhere in the world, accompanied by social devastation?
  3. Why is government complicit in these kinds of “greenwashing” exercises, yet finds it impossible to hold companies to account for the known harm that they do?
  4. What is the point of IUAPPA convening such a congress under these auspices, when even they (IUAPPA) confirm: “Air pollution causes over 800,000 deaths and tens of millions of respiratory and other illnesses each year. It damages ecosystems and affects quality of life, reduces economic activity and reinforces the cycle of poverty in many areas of the world.”

Civil society that is concerned with plans for more climate change-inducing coal fired power stations that is now on the cards in South Africa, dangerous and expensive nuclear power, polluting and socially and environmentally devastating hydraulic fracturing (fracking), problematic coal mines and the high price of electricity, have come together to protest this gathering of our polluters and government representatives.

The protest is planned for Sunday the 29th of September between 2pm and 4pm opposite the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Cape Town Mayor, Councillor Patricia de Lille, and representatives from the named polluting companies have been invited to receive a memorandum outlining the concerns of civil society that believe the polluter-pays-principle should be strictly enforced. This initiative has thus far received the support of more than 80 organisations.

Come and join us!!

This initiative is supported by:

Earthlife Africa Cape Town; CAPTRUST; Community Consent Movement; Manenberg Dev Co-ord Structure; Southern Cape Land Committee, Groundwork, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance,  Cochoqua Tribal House (Khoi San), Coalition for Environmental Justice, Million Climate Jobs Campaign, The South African United National Anti-nuclear Mobilisation Initiative (TSUNAMI) comprising over 60 organisations; Coalition Against Nuclear Energy (CANE) comprising numerous community-based organisations, professionals and NGOs.

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