Environment group demands urgent parliament debate on UN climate change report

Environment group demands urgent parliament debate on UN climate change report.
Environment group demands urgent parliament debate on UN climate change report.
Image: 123RF/Wang Tom

The Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC) and alliance partners‚ the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign‚ has demanded an emergency parliament sitting to discuss a United Nations climate change report.

The demand comes after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report a Monday saying that having the Earth’s temperature rise by only 1.5 degrees Celsius — rather than the 2°C target agreed to in 2015 — would have clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems.

COPAC and the Food Sovereignty Campaign want parliament to discuss this report and its implications for South African climate change policy.

COPAC board chairperson Vishwas Satgar said in an open letter on Tuesday that there was a “total disregard for the disproportionate impacts of the drought‚ as a climate shock‚ on the unemployed‚ the working class and the rural and urban poor“.

“This is a crisis of leadership and does not bode well for a climate driven South Africa in which we will be having more extreme weather including droughts‚ heat waves‚ floods‚ wild fires and sea level rise‚” Satgar wrote.

According to the IPCC‚ report the current rate of warming in the world’s temperatures would possibly reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 after an increase of 1°C above pre-industrial levels since the mid-1800s.

The report stated that if the 1.5°C target was reached‚ it would keep the global sea level rise at 0.1m. This could reduce flooding and enable people that inhabit the world’s coasts‚ islands and river deltas time to adapt to climate change.

The report said a lower target would reduce species loss‚ extinction and the impact of terrestrial‚ freshwater and coastal ecosystems.

Satgar said the report underlined the imperative of bringing down carbon emissions to prevent catastrophic climate change through a 1.5°C overshoot.

“The report is clear that we are running out of time and decisive leadership is needed over the next 12 years to prevent such a dangerous shift in the earth’s climate.

“We believe this report needs to be deliberated through an emergency sitting of parliament as it impacts on the future of all human and non-human life forms in South Africa and on the planet‚” he wrote.

Satgar said it was a matter of national interest for all present and future generations.

He said their activism in the past had confirmed the “lack of responsiveness and leadership from the South African government regarding the drought and climate change“.

Among other suggestions‚ Satgar said government had to consider “immediately ending all new investment in coal mining and fracking and scrapping the existing national development plan and developing‚ in a bottom up manner‚ a climate emergency plan for South Africa as part of the deep just transition to advance the water‚ food‚ energy‚ production‚ consumption‚ transport‚ financial and health systems that will sustain life”.

He said a failure to have the parliamentary debate on the UN report enabled similar engagements to happen at provincial government‚ local government and ward committee level.

“The failure to act on our demand unfortunately will leave us with the conclusion that your government is either in climate denial or captured by fossil fuel interests or irrational about the current science of climate change‚” he wrote.

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