Here at 350Africa.org we believe that climate justice is about creating a more fair and just society, and so we wanted to put out this blog to explain why it’s important to stand together with workers in their struggles for a more just society. We wanted to highlight why doing so is not separate from, but connected to the fight for climate justice.
We know that the fight for climate justice is also a fight to tackle corruption, inequality and poverty. South Africa is one of the world’s most polluting & unequal economies – built on the twin foundations of exploiting people and the planet. The climate crisis is making inequality and poverty worse, with studies showing it has already made South Africa more unequal and up to 20% poorer. Climate change has gravely deepened existing problems such as lack of access to food, water, and energy.
The climate crisis has deepened inequality and poverty. However, we also know that much of the plight of our people has been driven by a lack of delivery from our government and a failure to transform the deeply unequal foundations upon which South Africa was built. Thus, as part of our fight for climate justice, we also stand in solidarity and take up the struggle to overhaul the systems that are driving deepening social, economic and environmental injustice.
Corruption and state capture is at the heart of preventing us from acting on climate change. State capture and mismanagement have run Eskom into the ground to protect the interests of corrupt polluters and looters. All the money that has been lost to looting and to propping up polluting public and private corporations, could have instead been invested in a better future for our people. For example, the R14 trillion that was spent on overpriced, improperly tendered coal contracts in 2008, should have instead been invested in building a more socially and ecologically just society.
As the impacts of a COVID-19-deepened recession hit, workers and communities are rejecting devastating austerity measures. Austerity pulls needed investments in public services and government programs from communities at precisely the time when they are most needed. Such measures punish the poor and the people of South Africa for the corruption and mismanagement of our government.
Rather than austerity for the poor and subsidies for polluters, we must root out corruption, and use public funds for the public good. As the Climate Justice Coalition and the Cry of the Xcluded demand, 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 support the concerns raised about our crumbling public transport infrastructure. We desperately need to invest in mass public transit for all, to ensure that everyone has the means to access affordable transport options. That transit needs to be modernised and electrified to lower the costs of the transport and also to reduce the environmental pollution associated with polluting internal combustion engines. That includes investing in better lanes and infrastructure for buses, taxis, pedestrians and cyclists. Our people deserve a decent public transport infrastructure that is safe, affordable, non-polluting and dignified.
To escape our load-shedding nightmare, we need a just transition to renewable energy, providing clean, safe, & affordable energy for all, with no worker & community left behind. Rather than expensive, polluting, & unreliable coal, fossil gas & nuclear, we stand together with over forty organisations demanding a Green New Eskom, with a just transition to a more socially owned renewable energy future. Centring the voices of impacted and frontline workers and communities is key to ensuring such a transition is truly just.
In partnership with the Climate Justice Coalition 350Africa.org has been demanding a just recovery to COVID-19. A just recovery is not just about a just transition away from polluting energy to renewables. It is also about investing in a robust social safety net & service delivery, so our people can weather the coming climate crises & not fall through the widening gaps in our society. For a more just & climate resilient society, we need quality healthcare, jobs, education, water, basic income, energy, transit, & land for all.
COVID-19 is linked to the ecological crisis, as ecological degradation & climate change make pandemics more likely. In the name of climate justice, we must support vital frontline healthcare workers, teachers & care workers. Their low-carbon work is key to a more socially & ecologically just future. We stand in solidarity with their demands for proper PPE & compensation for their vital undervalued work.
As 350Africa.org stands with workers in this strike, we also note our disagreement with COSATU’s vision for our energy future, which includes new coal and polluting fossil gas. This position is out of line with needed urgency on climate change and would lock us into more expensive and polluting energy. We salute SAFTU for having a more progressive vision of climate justice in line with the urgency of the crisis we face.
We encourage and welcome all federations and their members to join us more actively in our struggle for climate justice. We are committed to standing together in solidarity and arm-in-arm with workers and communities fighting for social, economic and environmental justice. We know that it will take all of us fighting together to overcome the entrenched powers holding us back from a more socially and ecologically just future.
350Africa.org will be supporting the strike, amplifying their demands, and joining workers in the street. For a more socially and ecologically just future, we hope you do too.
(This blog was adapted from the Climate Justice Coalition’s statement in support of the strikes. 350Africa.org is proud to serve as secretary for the coalition).