South Africa

OUR BURNING PLANET

SA activists mark Earth Day with calls for adoption of Climate Justice Charter

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance held a creative demonstration outside the Durban City Hall on Thursday, 22 April. Photo: Shanice Firmin

‘We choose Earth, not Carbon capitalism’ – climate activists call on local and provincial governments call for urgent change and to lead the fight against climate change, on the 51st celebration of Earth Day on Thursday.

Activist groups across the country are calling for local and provincial governments and the South African Local Government Association (Salga), to adopt the Climate Justice Charter on Thursday, 22 April. 

The 42 actions, organised by communities and climate activist groups, are taking place in the form of online dialogues and physical engagements with local governments and municipalities. 

Actions and events have taken place in parts of Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance is one group that held a creative demonstration outside the Durban City Hall, on Thursday morning. 

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance held a creative demonstration outside the Durban City Hall on Thursday, 22 April. Photo: Shanice Firmin

“We commenced at 10am and finished at 12pm [and] we had schools participating from all over Durban,” project officer for development, infrastructure and climate change at the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Shanice Firmin told Daily Maverick.

“We also had to bear in mind social distancing and keeping Covid-19 protocols at the top of our priority, so we didn’t have huge numbers of people,” said Firmin. 

On 16 October 2020, the Climate Justice Charter Movement (CJCM) presented the Climate Justice Charter to the Parliament of South Africa, for adoption as per Section 234 of the Constitution. The Charter advocates for a “deep just transition” to a climate justice future through placing “needs of workers, the poor and the most vulnerable at the centre of decarbonisation, systemic change and capabilities building. 

This Earth Day, the CJCM is calling on local governments and Salga to “endorse” the Climate Justice Charter. 

“We’re imbuing Earth Day with a South African significance, and for us, it’s really about drawing attention to the urgency of climate science, and to the Climate Justice Charter as a vision for the country,” board chairperson at the Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre (Copac) and CJCM activist, Vishwas Satgar told Daily Maverick. 

“The Charter calls for us to be guardians of Earth and, being Earth Day, that is a very important issue for us,” said Satgar. 

“Do we continue choosing to reproduce a system that is destroying the conditions that sustain life on planet Earth, which is a carbon capitalist system, which is destroying human and non-human life? Or do we choose Earth and everything it offers to us?”

 

According to Satgar, the South African Food Sovereignty Campaign (SAFSC), Copac and the CJCM are also calling for:

  • Local and provincial governments to take active steps towards ending corruption;
  • Local and provincial governments to adopt the People’s Food Sovereignty Act, and place food sovereignty “on the national agenda as the basis to build a new food system that can decarbonise our society, but also give control of the food system to small scale producers and communities”;
  • Climate science to be taken seriously by local and provincial governments; and
  • Support for community’s demands for “deep just transitions; whether those are demands of water-stressed communities, demands for infrastructure, public transport or eco-housing”.

On Thursday morning, Copac held its first engagement with members from Salga, where these demands were raised, said Satgar. 

“We [had] a very, very favourable response from Salga,” he said. 

“We underlined our vision for a different kind of state in the meeting with Salga. We believe that the kind of state we have is really wearing thin, it’s dysfunctional [and is] showing lack of capability in many parts of South African society,” Satgar told Daily Maverick. 

In the virtual meeting, Copac foregrounded its vision for a “people-driven climate justice state” that democratises planning, said Satgar. 

According to Satgar, the issue of increased pressures on South Africa’s firefighting services was raised and Copac reiterated the need for a national firefighting service. 

Environmental activists from Extinction Rebellion protest outside the Standard Bank head office in Rosebank, Johannesburg on 12 March 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / KIM LUDBROOK)

“Our local government resources and supported firefighting services are coming short – we’ve seen that in fires in different parts of the country,” said. 

There is an urgent need to build these kinds of capabilities in South Africa, as firefighters are also “deeply concerned,” said Satgar, who explained that Copac has had several interviews with firefighters. 

The SAFSC, Copac and the CJCM will be taking their demands forward into the local government elections, which are set to take place on Wednesday, 27 October 2021. 

“We are calling for the local government elections in October to be climate justice elections,” Satgar told Daily Maverick. 

This means ensuring that South Africans vote for political parties that take climate science seriously, have adopted the Climate Justice Charter, will advance food sovereignty, and will take forward community demands and take active steps against corruption, he said.  

As the world sees the emergence of more climate elections, Satgar said he is “very hopeful” that we are going to see “dramatic changes in politics informed by climate urgency” in South Africa.

Daily Maverick sought comment from Salga but this was yet to be received by the time of publication. It will be added once it is received. DM

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