Climate activists march on Human Rights Day against fossil fuels

The protesters said they want a rapid and just energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Photo by Vincent Lali

To mark Human Rights Day and to stand in solidarity with the global climate movement, the marchers called for system change.

Nearly three hundred climate activists marched to parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday, to urge the government to “end exploitation of fossil fuel.” They carried placards that read: “Don’t gas Africa,” “We need good public transport,” and “Climate change is real” as they marched and sang struggle songs.

Gabriel Klaasen, spokesperson for African Climate Alliance told Elitsha that Project 90 by 2030, Don’t Gas Africa, XR Cape Town, Green Connection African Climate Alliance and Environmental Monitoring Group were among the organisations participating in the march. “We are calling for the end of fossil fuel exploitation, specifically gas,” he said.

The environmental activists want government to use renewable energy “because fossil fuels damage the environment and people’s livelihoods. Fossil fuel exploitation damages the ocean, where small-scale fishers make their income, and destroys the health and wellbeing of communities,” Klaasen said.

Lisa Makawula, spokesperson for Green Connection, said: “We want to ensure that the government implements sustainable solutions to the energy crises.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which was released on Monday, is a blaring alarm that the government cannot ignore. “The report states that 34 percent of emissions need to be reduced in Africa because they may lead to droughts and severe weather patterns,” she said. “Communities can’t farm when there are severe weather patterns and drought.”

Mpumi Mhlalisi, coordinator for Western Cape Water Caucus, said: “We are calling on the government to stop serving the interests of the west through compromising the lives and the futures of African people.”

South Africa made commitments at the Conference of Parties in Egypt to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that have a negative impact on the environment, he said. “It is the government’s responsibility to honour such commitments by ceasing to invest in fossil fuels,” Mhlalisi said.

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Addressing the climate activists, Don’t Gas Africa campaign leader, Bhekumuzi Bhebhe said: “The just transition to renewable energy has never been more crucial, as the climate crises and its impacts threaten the African continent and its people. The growing threat to use Africa as a gas station has made it clear for the need to raise Africa’s climate ambitions on the international agenda and Africa’s ability to be a key stakeholder of a green, clean global economy.

“African land is not a gas station.

“Millions are losing their homes, don’t have access to food, have their health threatened and are slipping into higher levels of extreme poverty because of the fossil fuel industry.”

The activists’ memorandum calls upon the government to promise to eliminate “all fossil fuel electricity production by 2035 at the very latest… The concerted attempts by the present Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and NERSA to procure a further 1500MW of new coal-fired generation capacity in addition to the establishment of new Liquid Natural  Gas (LNG) Terminals is completely unacceptable,” it says.

The memorandum demands that the department of mineral resources be changed “to fulfill a mandate for a socially inclusive, economically and ecologically just energy and mining future.

“In accordance with section 234 of the South African constitution, Parliament must table a motion to consider and debate the adoption of the Climate Justice Charter which aims to ‘end hunger, thirst, pollution and climate harms’,” it says.

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