26 February 2019 at 12:55 pm
The end of February is the time of year when many taxpayers contemplate charitable donations. If you are thinking of making a donation to a worthy cause before the end of the tax year, please consider becoming part of the work of the Centre for Environmental Rights. We are a registered public benefit organisation, and issue Section 18A certificates to donors on request.
Motivated by the devastating impacts of an at least 1.5 degree increase in average global temperatures and what that would mean for our environment and future generations, the attorneys at the Centre for Environmental Rights hold the line against further investment in any new coal developments, and advocate for accelerated decommissioning and rehabilitation of Eskom’s polluting coal power stations and the coal mines that service them. With our partners, we are working to encourage progressive and proactive planning to ensure that the transition away from fossil fuels, already underway, results in a more just, equitable, and sustainable South Africa. We also advocate for increased legal protection for our precious strategic water source areas as a way to strengthen the country’s ability to adapt to a changed climate.
Together with our two partners in the Life After Coal campaign, groundWork and Earthlife Africa, as well as Greenpeace Africa, we are vigorously resisting an Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for electricity that contains any new coal, that grossly underestimates the external costs to health and the environment of existing coal power generation, and that constrains renewable energy. We launched a report on the cost of treatment of coal polluted water to show how electricity planning ignores the enormous costs of coal mining and coal-fired power on water resources. Depending on the contents of the final IRP still awaited, it may still be necessary to challenge this document and future electricity determinations in court.
Our Corporate Accountability & Transparency Programme launched its latest Full Disclosure report in June 2018. Entitled Full Disclosure: the Truth about Mining Rehabilitation in South Africa and based on an independent assessment by Intellidex, it found that neither the law, nor the accounting standards governing company disclosures, ensure the necessary transparency and accountability about financial provision for environmental rehabilitation, i.e. the money that mining companies are legally required to set aside to rehabilitate environmental damage.
In November 2018, attorneys from our Corporate Accountability and Transparency Programme joined other community activists and shareholder activist organisation Just Share at corporate giant Sasol’s Annual General Meeting to challenge Sasol’s board and management on social issues, rehabilitation funds, air pollution, and climate change. Sasol is one of South Africa’s top two greenhouse gas emitters (second only to Eskom).
CER’s support for environmental justice activists continues. We held our second Environmental Rights & Remedies training course for activists in Cape Town from 22 August to 6 September 2018 to provide 15 activists from communities affected by environmental rights violations with enhanced tools for their activism, and to empower them to use the law to assert their rights, encourage compliance, and hold government and the private sector accountable for violations of environment law.
Our Wildlife Project continues to highlight the negative implications of the “sustainable use” approach to wildlife – including South Africa’s threatened and protected species – promoted by the wildlife industry. In June 2018, in partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, we published the findings of our review of the regulation of the welfare of wild animals in SA. Entitled Fair Game? Improving the Regulation of the Well-being of South African Wildlife, this report revealed major gaps in legislation and the implementation of our laws, leaving the well-being of wild animals without adequate protection. In 2019, we are building an advocacy and litigation programme based on these findings.
In 2018, our Mining attorneys secured a long-awaited court victory in the Mabola coal mining case, in which we represent a coalition of eight civil society organisations resisting the development of a large new coal mine inside a declared protected area and strategic water source area. On 8 November 2018, the High Court in Pretoria set aside the permission given by the late Environment Minister Molewa and the former Mineral Resources Minister Zwane to allow this mine inside the Mabola Protected Environment, setting an important precedent for the integrity of South Africa’s entire protected areas network. In January, the mining company was refused leave to appeal this judgment and has now petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal in a further attempt to set the judgment aside. Learn more about and donate to this important campaign!
Right now, CER attorneys are preparing for court action on behalf of groundWork and Mpumalanga residents to demand that government takes reasonable measures to clean up Mpumalanga’s dirty air – an ongoing violation of Constitutional rights. The Mpumalanga Highveld contains hundreds of coal mines and 12 of Eskom’s 15 coal-fired power stations, most of whom do not comply with their air pollution permits. The Highveld is also home to other large fossil fuel facilities like Sasol’s enormous coal to liquids operation in Secunda, one of the biggest point sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the world. As a result, Mpumalanga has some of the most severe water and air pollution in the world.
In 2019, our hard-working and committed attorneys and candidate attorneys continue to face threats and attacks from many quarters, and on many platforms. While attacks on environmental rights defenders are a global phenomenon that have only increased over the past few years, this kind of conduct is not acceptable in a Constitutional democracy that guarantees not only environmental rights, but also freedom of expression. We will continue to raise our voices in the face of environmental injustice.
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The Centre for Environmental rights is a non-profit organisation of activist lawyers that helps communities and civil society organisations in South Africa realise our Constitutional right to a healthy environment by advocating and litigating for environmental justice.