ALEX LENFERNA: President Ramaphosa’s important local weather take a look at: firing Gwede Mantashe

OPINION

Since changing into President, Cyril Ramaphosa has tried to place himself as a champion of local weather motion. He has established the Presidential Fee on Local weather Change, invited youth local weather activists to his State of the Nation Addresses, and written letters in regards to the urgency of the local weather disaster.

In his most up-to-date weekly e-newsletter, written on 11 October, Ramaphosa outlined why the electrical energy sector should be the primary and quickest sector to decarbonise – serving because the engine for renewably powering the broader financial system. The letter outlines the unimaginable financial alternative for South Africa if we achieve this, and the immense financial and environmental dangers if we don’t.

For all of the president’s slick rhetoric on local weather change although, the fact is that he has appointed a digital local weather denier to one of the vital vital positions for performing on local weather change and vitality, particularly, Gwede Mantashe as minister in command of the Division of Mineral Sources and Vitality (DMRE).

Whereas Mantashe doesn’t publicly deny the science of local weather change, his actions are in clear contradiction with what scientists and economists inform us must be achieved to avert the worst of the local weather disaster. Worse than being a easy local weather science denier, Minister Mantashe is taking actions that may make the local weather disaster a lot worse.

The world’s main local weather science our bodies have detailed why we should urgently transition away from polluting coal, oil and gasoline to maintain international warming from going above 1.5C above pre-industrial ranges – a goal all of the world’s governments have agreed to and past which we’d see more and more catastrophic and irreversible local weather change.

Economists for his or her half have informed us that assembly the 1.5C goal may “create hundreds of thousands of latest jobs, considerably carry international financial progress, and obtain common entry to electrical energy and clear cooking worldwide by the top of the last decade”. That’s even in response to the (usually fairly fossil-fuel pleasant) Worldwide Vitality Company.

Getting in the other way although, Mantashe is attempting to open South Africa as much as huge new coal, gasoline and oil exploration and extraction. He’s additionally attempting to lock our vitality system into polluting and costly new coal and gasoline tasks. He’s doing so not solely in defiance of science and economics, but additionally civil society.

From the twenty second to the twenty seventh of September, 1000’s of individuals representing dozens of civil society organisations marched to DMRE workplaces in each province throughout the nation, underneath the banner #UprootTheDMRE. Their listing of calls for included that Minister Mantashe step apart and the DMRE be reworked to make sure a extra socially and environmentally simply future.

Giving a center finger to civil society and local weather actuality, the very subsequent week Mantashe and the DMRE hosted a convention in Limpopo. On the industry-only convention, they declared that “assaults on coal had been untimely”, and invited fossil gas companies to spend money on coal, oil and gasoline in South Africa.

Embarrassingly, that coal-loving convention was taking place simply as worldwide local weather envoys had been touchdown in South Africa. The envoys had been there to see if they might strike a deal to supply beneficial worldwide local weather finance for Eskom to fund a simply transition to a renewable vitality future.

Though the ANC has come out in assist of the Eskom transition plan, it should have been very exhausting to promote the worldwide local weather envoys that South Africa was totally on board with Mantashe publicly opposing the deal and falsely calling a transition away from coal “financial suicide”.

Because the president’s personal Eskom Sustainability Job Power beneficial, such worldwide local weather finance is among the solely methods for Eskom to unravel its debt disaster and get onto a extra sustainable pathway each financially and environmentally. As such, Mantashe’s actions usually are not solely threatening the local weather, but additionally the viability of Eskom and our complete financial system.

That’s not the one Presidential Job Power that Mantashe is disregarding. There’s additionally the Presidential Financial Advisory council. It confirmed that Mantashe’s disastrous emergency energy procurement programme “seems to be specifically written for costlier powerships and gas-to-power tasks” and “to exclude competitors from renewables tasks”, which might be cheaper, cleaner and extra job creating.

Then there’s the President’s Local weather Fee which not too long ago beneficial that South Africa strengthen its plan to scale back climate-polluting greenhouse gasoline emissions. Mantashe’s polluting vitality plans make assembly that plan extraordinarily tough and unnecessarily economically painful for South Africa, as current financial evaluation from Meridian Economics reveals.

It’s price noting that there was dissent from inside the Presidential Local weather Fee, with a number of civil society voices protesting that the fee’s plans usually are not bold sufficient. That’s as a result of they aren’t according to South Africa’s fair proportion of maintaining warming to 1.5C. As such, Mantashe’s actions are out of line even with a plan that isn’t sufficiently bold.

Ramaphosa’s silence on Mantashe and the DMRE’s costly and polluting agenda has been deafening, particularly because it goes opposite to the recommendation of lots of the knowledgeable our bodies that the President has put collectively. Worse than silence although, Mantashe has repeatedly been invited to the Presidential Local weather Fee to advertise his polluting agenda, a lot to the astonishment, frustration, and disbelief of many current.

As Professor Steven Friedman argues, local weather denial and inaction must be a fireable offense for presidency officers. Simply as we should always by no means put an Aids denialist in command of the Well being Division within the midst of an Aids pandemic, so a digital local weather denier shouldn’t be in command of our important vitality and mining selections within the midst of a local weather emergency.

If President Ramaphosa needs to be an precise champion of local weather motion, he wants to start out matching his phrases with motion. That ought to begin with relieving Mantashe of his ministerial duties and changing him with a progressive chief who can remodel the DMRE and transfer it in a extra socially, economically and environmentally simply course.

In any other case, Ramaphosa could also be remembered because the president who delivered slick rhetoric on local weather change, whereas delivering, in observe, a continuation of the vitality and mining agenda which has made South Africa one of many world’s most unequal and polluting nations on earth.

Alex Lenferna is secretary of the Local weather Justice Coalition and a campaigner with 350Africa.org. He holds a PhD on local weather and vitality justice from the College of Washington. Observe him on Twitter: @AlexLenferna

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