Civil society organisations are growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of political will from South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) to address the country’s climate change crisis. According to the Climate Justice Coalition, potential solutions to the crippling energy and climate change situation are being blocked by DMRE’s lack of action.
The activists argue that a rapid and just transition to renewable energy is the fastest and most affordable way to solve load shedding.
Promise Mabilo, representing the Vukani Environmental Movement operating in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, an area heavily impacted by coal mining, asserts the daunting challenges of being surrounded by mines and coal-fired power stations. During the Climate Justice Coalition’s webinar on #UprootTheDMRE, Mabilo emphasised the devastating effects of mining on people. “The impacts of mining are very disturbing to people’s health and our environment at large. And in our water, in our land and also in everything that we need as communities on a daily basis”.
DMR only pays lip service to issues
“It is very difficult to live in such an area. The worst part of all this is that we do have a lot of engagement with our local government. But our voices are never listened to. It seems as if we are not allowed to say a word concerning the coal that is affecting our health and environment,” says Mabilo.
She says children are the ones most affected by climate change caused by coal use in Emalahleni.
“Everyone who is living in this area is affected in different ways. But the young ones are the most affected group as they often have difficulty breathing. And there is no political will to ensure climate change is addressed properly,” says Mabilo.
The World Health Organisation states that climate change has made a significant impact on health. It estimates that climate change will cause an additional 250, 000 deaths annually, between 2030 and 2050. Other environmental pollutants will lead to 1.2 million deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease annually.
Alex Lenferna, who serves as the elected general secretary of the Climate Justice Coalition, says historically our economy has been largely dominated by mining corporations who rely on both polluting coal power and the exploitation of the dominant working black class.
SA among most polluted countries globally
“Mineral energy really is responsible for South Africa’s being both the world’s unequal economy and also one of the world’s most polluted economies. In fact, if you look at our economy and the amount of pollution made, we are one of the worst,” says Lenferna.
He accuses the DMRE of working against what is good for people. “What we find time and time again is that it is the department is captured by the very industries that it’s supposed to regulate. And so, what we have seen is that even as apartheid ended the same economic and ecological structures of the apartheid era continue to be appalled by the likes of the department of mineral resources and energy”.
Poor decisions continuously made
Kholwani Simelane, an environmental activist at The Green Connection, agrees the DMRE is the most well-placed to effect the required changes. “If they were making proper decisions around energy, minerals and resources within South Africa, people’s health and livelihoods wouldn’t be put at risk”.
“In turn, the communities that we work with have been negatively impacted by the profit-driven decisions made by the department itself. I am convinced that the government looks at it from a profit point of view and not a human dignity level considering the damage, destruction and environmental harm on social effect this has on communities,” says Simelane. –Health-e News.