Home PodcastJulie Alli Earth is heating up as climate crisis worsens

Earth is heating up as climate crisis worsens

by Salaamedia Intern
The earth is gradually heating up from all the carbon emissions in the atmosphere Photo Pexels

South Africa – World leaders, diplomats, campaigners and scientists have descended on Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to talk about climate change. Ever since the first United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27) took place, more than one trillion tonnes of heat-trapping carbon dioxide from fossil fuels have been released into the air. The world has got 0.6 degrees Celsius hotter as a result.

Climate change is one of the most dangerous things humanity has to deal with. With natural disasters increasing every year, the impact of fossil fuels on the atmosphere is becoming more apparent. Climate change is a human rights struggle on a global stage, said Liziwe McDaid, Strategic lead at the Green Connection.

“I can almost say it’s similar to Apartheid where rich, industrialised nations use the carbon resources they have had and the result of that has been climate change. The result of climate change is weather patterns that are shifting and now we are seeing droughts, floods and that’s going to increase. This becomes a human rights issue. There has been a huge reluctance that the West and the industrialised countries are really responsible for the climate crisis that we find ourselves in.”

While the West and Europe are responsible for the current climate crisis, South Africa also has to take some blame. South Africa sits with 85% coal-based power fleet. Something the rest of Africa does not have. So, while the country might not produce as much carbon emissions as the industrialised countries, it must take some blame as well, said McDaid.


A smooth and just transition

South Africa is one of the biggest contributors of carbon emissions in Africa but also has some of the best solar resources. The objective now is to find a way to utilize these resources to create a strong economy but also to ensure the transition is a smooth and just one.

“That’s what the debate and the negotiations in Egypt are about. We are being offered loans. Loans mean you have to pay it back with interest. Who is gaining and how are we benefiting from having to borrow money to solve a problem that we didn’t create? That’s not justice. If we’re talking about a just transition, then we need that funding to go towards ensuring that South Africa is not worse off.”

Another aspect that needs to be considered are those who work in the coal industry. Moving from coal to renewable energy will ultimately cost jobs in the coal industry. While the move has to come, those in the coal industry cannot be left helpless.

“We have a lot of people who’ve invested their lives in the coal industry. Now we need to move away from that. There’s no doubt we need to move … but we have to move in a way that those people whose lives have been about the coal industry are not left behind. There needs to be some monetary package that you can retire and relax or be part of decommissioning of coal plant. You stay with your skills, but you become part of the just transition.”



There needs to be a clear plan to escape the climate crisis

There are those energy experts who believe South Africa should stick to coal for now. The country has a vast supply of coal and to them, moving to renewable energy is just a money-making process. McDaid believes any power supply can be used to make money but that isn’t the problem. The problem is the government has no clear plan on whether they want to pursue renewable energy or stick to coal.

“The issue is we need a proper plan and where all the evidence is put on the table so that we are not being dragged in one direction or the other … That’s why the Green Connection wrote to the president last week basically saying we’re going to go to court to force the government to implement a piece of law that’s been in our statute books but hasn’t been promulgated since 2008. It says that South Africa must have an energy plan which is revised every year. That energy plan must involve the voices of South Africans because we need to see the information and the evidence and then make our own minds up as to which direction we should be going.”

For McDaid it doesn’t matter what claims any particular energy expert makes but there needs to be a plan all South Africans feel comfortable with. A plan that benefits South Africans in the short term and long term.


The Paris Accord

For the best 27 years leaders, diplomats, campaigners and scientists have been meeting to discuss how to deal with the climate crisis. Since the first meeting, things have only got worse. There is a sense amongst many activists that not much is being done at these meetings. The Paris Accord, which was supposed to be a defining moment in the fight against climate change, is starting to look like more broken promises.

“We had a plan in Paris where everyone agreed we need to reduce our carbon emissions and we need to build alternatives, but we also need to acknowledge that the climate impacts that are happening, are happening on the most vulnerable countries. So, those who are responsible need to contribute to the solutions at that country level and that’s where the sticking point comes because suddenly everyone’s happy to talk until it comes to committing hard cash to the problem.”

Even when cash is promised, it often comes with terms and conditions that don’t benefit the borrowing country. High interest rates often lead to developing nations suffering even more trying to pay the loan. This is why countries choose to rather burn coal than take a loan to transition from coal to renewable energy.

For McDaid there has to be success that comes out of COP 27. There is only one earth, and everyone needs to come together to safe guard it. There is no planet B. The one way to do this is to help developing countries with interest free loans in order for them to transition smoothly and help their economy. For now, McDaid hopes that COP 27 provides some solutions and not empty promises like the last 26 climate conferences have. Only by working together can we reverse the damage that has been caused to the planet.

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