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Climate Change Learning Session for activists

22 July 2016 at 5:32 pm

climate-change-just-ahead-road-sign-illustration-68870451Last week, the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) and groundWork, with the support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Foundation for Human Rights, convened a climate change learning session in Johannesburg for activists from six community organisations from across the country.

The presenters included several known South African climate change experts, and two CER attorneys from its Pollution & Climate Change Programme.

The purpose of the session was to provide a platform for sharing knowledge on climate change, mitigation and adaptation and to learn more about the effect of the climate change on the environment, water, and health. Possible legal intervention options and the roles that each participant could play in fighting climate change, were also highlighted.

  • Taryn Kong from the Association for Water and Rural Development gave an overview of  climate change mitigation and the building of resilience on the Olifants river catchment.  Some of the initiatives adopted by AWARD are the provision of municipal support for disaster risk reduction and the installation of real-time water quality and quantity monitoring equipment along the river.
  • Dr Nicholas King, an independent consultant in global change and sustainability, presented on climate change science and policy, as well as facts and figures proving that changes which were previously taking millions of years to manifest, are now happening at a much faster pace.
  • Stephen Law, director of Environmental Monitoring Group, reminded the group that water is a scarce resource for which we have no alternative, and that, at least, South Africans must seriously reduce their water usage.
  • David Hallowes from groundWork, spoke about the impacts of climate change on communities, with a particular focus on the health impacts of climate change.
  • CER attorneys Sylvia Kamanja and Nicole Löser spoke about the legal regulation of climate change in South Africa, affirming that all South Africans have a right to a clean and healthy environment and to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.  Failure to take steps to adequately mitigate against climate change is a contravention of the environmental right.  They explained the new developments taking place in South African law, with draft climate change regulations including regulations for the reporting of greenhouse gases, set to come into force, as well as the requirements to include climate change impact assessments in environmental impact assessments.  They also looked at the growing collection of international litigation where civil society are taking their governments and large carbon emitters to court for failing to take adequate steps to mitigate against climate change.

Participants considered ways of mitigating and adapting to climate change and identified new possibilities of dealing with the climate change concerns in their communities.

The six community organisations represented at the Climate Change Learning Session were:

  • Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance
  • South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
  • South African Waste Pickers Association
  • Southern Cape Land Committee
  • Highveld Environmental Justice Network
  • Mining and Environmental Justice Community Network of SA