Riding on the wave of high energy from Powershift, I arrived back in South Africa to land hard in the humdrum bureacracy of the national government’s climate summit (to launch South Africa’s climate policy process). How I wished to have a few dozen Powershifters to inject some light and bright into the proceedings. That afternoon brought some relief in the form of a local protest march organised by some enviro justice groups to rally against the government’s exclusion of the people most harmed by the pollution and damaging effects of climate change. Granted, it didn’t match the march on DC’s capitol coal plant last Monday as it was much smaller in size, but I found myself enjoying singing along to “This is what democracy looks like” on a hot, dusty day in Johannesburg, three days after singing it in the snowy, freezing conditions of DC.
The conference centre closed its gates to the protest march, but participants inside could see and hear us singing, dancing and chanting. The national minister for the environment was not present to receive the protest group’s statement, but his deputy arrived to accept it (which was only given to him by the group on the condition that he place it “in the minister’s hands” the next day). The statement called for an immediate moratorium on CTL plants and nuclear power, a moratorium from 2013 on new coal plants, for mandatory energy efficiency in government-built low-income housing by 2015 as well as a state-subsidised rollout of a million solar water geysers, to ring-fence income from fossil fuel taxes to fund a free basic electricity grant for low-income households, for a feed-in tariff to be enabled as soon as possible for independent home power producers and, lastly, for a minimum of 15% energy to be sourced from renewables by 2020, growing to 50% by 2030.
A lot more noise-making will be necessary over the next 5 months to ensure that government listens to these voices, and 350 hopes to add support to this process, as well as raising awareness of the need to aim for 350 as the appropriate target for South Africa’s climate policy as well as the world’s.