Former statesman US President Barack Obama delivered a rousing address at the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on the 17th of July to celebrate and commemorate what would have been the elder statesman’s 100th birthday. The excitement in the air was palpable, people came out in their numbers, anticipating one of our time’s influential orators speak on a platform that another giant founded.

President Obama speaks at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Soweto, South Africa, Dec. 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Instead of getting caught up in the moment, 350.org gathered in front of the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium in Illovo, Johannesburg, to ask President Ramaphosa to improve his climate record by overseeing the immediate release of an updated electricity plan that excludes coal or nuclear power.

South Africa’s long awaited update to the 2010 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is expected to be submitted to parliament this month setting out the path for the country’s future energy mix. This highly anticipated master plan will be critical to ensuring that South Africa embraces a just energy transition where citizens benefit from new, clean energy technologies that reduce electricity costs, while tackling energy poverty, creating new jobs for those employed in the dying coal industry and the unemployed, and meeting the Paris Agreement target of keeping the world from warming over 2°C, aiming for 1.5°C.

We are at the helm of opportunities that can transform the country’s future and that of the continent by. Decommissioning old coal fired power stations should be seen as an economic reform and trade up. Too many communities are being held hostage by those with mining interests and have no long term strategy in mitigating environmental impacts.

Since he took office, President Ramaphosa has created expectations of progressive policy shifts in numerous sectors. However, South Africa’s energy policy is outdated and still heavily reliant on coal as a source of electricity generation, which makes it dramatically out of step with the country’s own commitments to address climate change.

This September, in the spirit of Nelson Mandela, and in line with president Ramaphosa’s Thuma Mina campaign which calls for active citizenship to alleviate South Africa’s challenges, South Africans will #RiseforClimate, organising and pushing for the government in power to recommit to the Paris Agreement by approving a new IRP that promotes renewable energy and progressively ditches coal as a polluting thing of the past.

South Africans will not be alone. People across the world will mobilise on the 8th of September,  ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit in California, to demand that local leaders build a fossil free world that works for everyone. Hundreds of events will take place all over the  globe to put pressure on leaders for a fast and just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. The full range of events can be seen at www.riseforclimate.org.

 

Author: Lerato Ngakane