Dear President Ramaphosa and Ministers Mantashe and Mboweni,
We write to you today as the Climate Justice Coalition – a coalition of over twenty union, civil society, grassroots, and community-based organisations. We write to you during a time of multiple interconnected crises of COVID-19, inequality, economic depression, deep poverty, unemployment, GBV, ecological degradation, and climate change. The decisions you make now can deepen those crises or work to tackle them together.
Each of you have made positive statements about tackling the climate crisis. However, your actions are making it worse – fuelling the fires of climate change and condemning us to a future of deep social and environmental calamity. In addition, we worry that your continued promotion of oil, coal, and fossil gas are threatening our economic growth, job creation, stable and affordable electricity, and social and ecological well-being.
On this day, we are demanding climate justice – demanding you do better as our leaders. For years, young people and children around the world have been striking from school and demanding climate justice – demanding that their future not be condemned to the ravages of climate chaos. In response to their call for a Global Day of Climate Action, today we stand with them and millions of people across the world who are demanding that we act before it is too late.
Study after study after study, including your government’s own modelling, shows that a renewable energy future is our most affordable, job creating and planet-saving form of energy. Renewable energy would also be the quickest and most affordable way to resolve our load-shedding crisis. Yet renewable energy has been stifled by the government for the last half-decade. Despite the climate and load-shedding crisis, there is no coherent strategy to rapidly build out renewable energy industries.
Looking forward, the Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity artificially limits renewable energy to force in uneconomic and polluting new coal. It does that despite coal being more expensive and polluting options – despite the climate science being clear that we cannot afford new fossil fuel infrastructure. We also have heard concerns that the Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme is designed in a way to favour polluting fossil fuels over renewable energy.
South Africa is the biggest climate polluter on the African continent – one of the world’s most polluting & unequal economies. We are tired of a harmful, polluting and expensive energy system. That is why together with over forty organisations we launched the campaign for a Green New Eskom. We list all the demands at the end of this letter, but at the core of the campaign is the demand for a just transition to a more socially owned, renewable energy future, providing clean, safe, and affordable energy for all, with no worker and community left behind.
We say no to new coal, no to fossil and fracked gas, and no to our energy future being dominated by large multinational corporations. We do say yes to a just transition to socially owned renewable energy, yes to renewably produced hydrogen gas. We say yes to a green industrialisation program that allows South Africa to lead on a home-grown, home-built renewable energy future. We say yes to a massive jobs program – to One Million Climate Jobs – training and putting people to work to build out an energy future that ensures social, economic, and environmental justice.
Minister Mantashe, we implore you and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, please put a stop to your aggressive, polluting, fossil-fueled energy agenda. It is harming our communities through air, water and soil pollution. It is condemning young people and future generations to climate devastation. We need to embrace a clean energy future. As we do so, all communities deserve free, prior & informed consent and the right to say no.
As the impacts of a COVID-19-deepened recession hit, we must reject devastating austerity measures, which will further impoverish our communities. As we and the Cry of the Xcluded both demand, instead we must invest in a radical Green New Deal to transform our society and put millions of people to work building a socially & environmentally just, zero carbon economy. This is one of the greatest opportunities to build a better South Africa that works for the many, not just the few. We cannot let it pass, for otherwise it may be too late to stop the worst ravages of climate change.
We need deep transformation to keep warming from crossing the dangerous threshold of 1.5°C. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us that will “require rapid and far-reaching transitions” across society. If we do not ensure a green and just recovery from COVID-19, studies tell us it will be too late to keep warming to 1.5 C. We must act now and ensure a just recovery that puts our social and ecological well-being over the interests of polluting corporations.
A just recovery from COVID-19 is not just about tackling pollution. It’s also about investing in a robust social safety net and service delivery, so our people can weather the coming climate and ecological crises and not fall through the widening gaps in our society. For a more just and climate resilient society, we need quality healthcare, jobs, education, water, basic income, energy, transit, and land for all. To ensure that we have such outcomes, we need to root out corruption and we need to invest in our communities, not disinvest from them as our current budgetary plans suggest.
COVID-19 is linked to the ecological crisis, as ecological degradation and climate change make pandemics more likely. We must support vital frontline healthcare workers, teachers and care workers. Their low-carbon work is key to a more socially and ecologically just future. We stand in solidarity with their demands for proper PPE and compensation for their vital undervalued work. Any recovery program must not leave behind those who are so vital for our collective well-being.
Minister Mboweni, we implore you to rethink your austerity heavy budget. While you may be wanting to tighten the nation’s belt, doing so tightens a noose around South Africa’s collective neck. It robs us of much needed investment in a time of depression, and it deprives communities of vital public services. It pulls money out of the economy, at exactly the time we need a stimulus and to be investing in a zero carbon future. If you want to tighten our collective belt, Mr Mboweni, let us stop fossil fuel subsidies. Let us not use public money for polluting investments like the harmful gas extraction projects being rejected by communities in Mozambique. Let us invest instead in a more socially and ecologically just future.
Mr President, you are the leader of our country. You can use this moment to lead a recovery program that truly invests in a more socially and ecologically just future. Alternatively, we can continue on the deeply socially, economically, and ecologically unjust pathway that South Africa is currently on. Mr President, you have written eloquent words on the need to address the climate crisis, but when we examine your actions we are not sure you mean them.
President Ramaphosa, you talk about the need to make our economy a low carbon one, yet you worked to help promote the polluting and water-intensive coal-fired economic zone in drought-stricken Limpopo. It would be one of the biggest, most polluting new power plants and industrial complexes in the world – owned primarily by questionable Chinese interests with little benefits to local people.
Under your leadership Mr President, the government has also been opening up vast swathes of the country to more oil, coal and gas extraction, adding more fuels to the fire of the climate crisis. The government is investing massive amounts into new polluting infrastructure, such as polluting petrochemical complexes in Durban, new coal export facilities and expansion of polluting fossil gas infrastructure such as pipelines. These actions are diametrically opposed to what is needed.
It is encouraging to finally see movement on forming the Presidential Coordinating Commission on Climate Change. However, incremental implementation of 10-year-old policy lacks the urgency needed. The climate crisis is here, now – we see it in the droughts, the floods washing away homes, the crippling heat, and the devastating impacts on our food and water systems. Scientists tell us that within the space of a few decades we have to transform our societies to a renewable energy, zero carbon future, and we need to start now.
Times of deep crisis like this ask of us to rise up and do great things. Every delay makes the crisis worse, locks us into more harm, condemns our young people and future generations to a devastated planet. Yet the actions of our government are not only unresponsive, they are actively taking us in the wrong direction. We must radically change course.
Mr President, Minister Mantashe, Minister Mboweni, the office of the Presidency, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and the Ministry of Finance, we implore you to embrace a path that truly ensures social and ecological well-being. You have key roles to play in ensuring a more socially and ecologically just future. Turn away from our deeply unequal, polluting fossil-fuelled, climate destabilising trajectory.
If our elected officials will not change path, then we as the people will need to rise up to put us on the path we must be on. A path to social and environmental justice. A path to equality and employment. A path where all have access to water, food, healthcare and education. A path to a renewable energy future, where everyone has access to safe, affordable and truly sustainable energy. A path for a truly better South Africa for all, not just in rhetoric, but in action too.
We as a coalition recognise that by transforming our society, we can ensure systems change, rather than climate change. We can ensure an inclusive and sustainable economy, rather than continuing on our current path, which drives deep inequality, poverty, violence, and ecological degradation. That’s why we advocate for a vision of climate justice which advances environmental, energy, food, water, gender, racial, immigrant, climate, and economic justice together.
We cannot afford any more delays. We cannot afford to exit one crisis by deepening the already dire climate crisis. Today we stand with young people across the world, demanding climate justice now. We hope that you will answer this call.
The Climate Justice Coalition
For correspondence, please contact coalition secretary:
Dr Alex Lenferna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 073-695-9164
The Green New Eskom campaign has the following list of demands.
- A rapid and just transition to a renewable energy powered, zero carbon economy, providing clean, safe & affordable energy for all, with no worker or community left behind.
- No new coal power – so-called “clean coal” is an expensive polluting lie. Just Medupi & Kusile power stations are projected to cost nearly R500 billion, almost as much as Ramaphosa’s proposed initial COVID-19 stimulus program.
- No to fracking for fossil gas. Rather than polluting fossil gas, new gas plants should aim for renewable hydrogen and biogas, which can help balance the grid for renewables. South Africa and Sasol can and should become leaders in producing affordable renewable hydrogen.
- Put in place a robust just transition plan that invests in and protects workers & communities vulnerable in the transition to a renewable energy economy. Leave no one behind.
- Based on the Integrated Resource Plan’s decision 5, remove the harmful limit on renewable energy, then accelerate the transition in line with South Africa’s fair share of keeping warming to 1.5C.
- Restructuring Eskom to do away with corruption & bloated, overpaid (mis)management.
- An audit of all energy supply contracts to recover costs on & end overpriced contracts – including the R14 trillion in overpriced coal contracts signed during 2008 loadshedding. Declare as odious the corruption riddled World Bank debt for the Medupi coal power plant.
- Policies & incentives to enable socially owned renewable energy so local workers, communities, small-to-medium businesses, and families can own and benefit from clean energy.
- Expand Eskom’s mandate to allow it to rapidly build out renewable energy and energy storage, and extend & upgrade the grid – allowing socially owned renewable energy to feed into the grid.
- Ending harmful and regressive subsidies for coal, oil and gas, and redirecting them to urgent needs like education, healthcare, energy access, and renewable energy. The taxpayer cannot keep bailing out the fossil fuel industry destroying our climate and our economy.
- A renewable reindustrialisation policy that enables a nationwide rollout of renewable energy factories and plants with priority given to vulnerable, coal-dependent, carbon-intensive regions.
- A mass rollout of: solar panels; electric vehicles and accompanying infrastructure; affordable, electrified mass transit; smart grids; battery and storage technologies; and building efficiency retrofits especially for low-income houses; all with policies to encourage local production.
- A massive skills, jobs, and training programme to create opportunities for South Africans in the renewable energy economy and unlock One Million Climate Jobs.
- No to continued tariff hikes which are making electricity unaffordable. Expand free electricity access for low-income households and ensure all have access to reliable, affordable energy.
- No exemptions to Eskom or Sasol for clean air regulations – including minimum emission standards, and transparency on emissions data. We must strengthen these regulations.
- All communities impacted by mining and energy projects must have their free, prior and informed consent respected. A standard which must be enshrined in the law and respected by regulations.
- Beyond just energy, as the Cry of the Xcluded has demanded, South Africa needs a radical Green New Deal which puts South Africans to work building a more socially and ecologically just future and which tackles our deep inequality, unemployment and poverty.
The Green New Eskom campaign has been endorsed by the following organisations:
- 350 Africa.org
- African Climate Alliance
- African Climate Reality Project
- Alternative Information and Development Centre
- Amnesty International SA
- Bokamoso Anti-Bullying, Youth Support and Home Based Care Organisation
- Botshabelo Unemployed Movement
- Centre for Applied Legal Studies
- Centre for Environmental Rights
- Designers Medium
- Extinction Rebellion South Africa
- Fund our Future
- General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa
- Global Catholic Climate Movement – Africa
- Keep Left
- Lawyers for Human Rights
- Mining Affected Communities United In Action
- Makause Community Development Forum
- Middleburg Environmental Justice Network
- Newcastle Environmental Justice Alliance
- Nu Climate Vision
- Planet Huggers
- Progress Nature Conservation Ranger Organisations
- Project 90 by 2030
- Réseau des Associations pour la Protection de l’Environnement et la Nature (RAPEN)
- Right 2 Know
- Section 27
- Sekhukhune Environmental Justice Network
- South African Federation of Trade Unions
- South African Youth Centre for Climate Change
- Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee
- Unemployed Peoples Movement
- Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance
- Waterberg Women Advocacy Organization
- Westside Park Community Crisis Committee
- Whole Earth Building Foundation
- Women Affected By Mining United in Action
- Women’s Leadership and Training Program