The IPCC report and what it implies for South Africa.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released its latest report on the state of the climate crisis. The report comes at a time when the African continent is faced with floods, a looming famine, and unprecedented levels of drought across many countries in the continent and an endless global onslaught of severe wildfires that are burning through Greece and Turkey. And, global warming is on the verge of spiraling out of control.
The IPCC report is alarming, painting a blurry future where runaway climate change is possible and is no longer a distant future phenomenon. Implying that, temperatures are on course to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius pre-industrial level 2050. South Africa is no exception nor immune to the impacts of global climate change that are rapidly escalating globally. The evidence, thus far being the frequent and extreme weather events, intense droughts in some parts of the country, threats to food security and socio-economic development in a country with a worsened Gini-coefficient rate.
To remedy the situation of the climate catastrophe, the IPCC recommends that a drastic action is taken to transform our economies and societies. In a global economy that is fossil fuel addictive, this would mean that countries must end all fossil fuel production and exploration. South Africa which is coal-reliant for its energy is ranked 12th globally for greenhouse total gas emissions accounting for 1% of global emissions through its state-owned energy company Eskom and the highest in Africa.
With Eskom being the highest polluter in the continent, while on the other hand climate catastrophe looming in the shadows-it is expected of Eskom to imminently decarbonize and transition to a just renewables energy within the next decade. However, the power utility company has approached the threat that is posed by the climate catastrophe through a snail-pace implementation of transitioning to renewable energy giving itself a target of 2050 of reaching net zero.
The recent couple of years has seen a growth in climate movements across the country which have been gradually grasping themselves in working-class communities. These movements have been at the forefront of organizing protests, agitating for a just socially owned renewable energy and protesting against the slowness of Eskom in transition to just renewable energy. However, the Achilles heel facing these movements has been the building of solidarity between communities and workers struggles. Already, the impacts of climate change in the economy is felt by people already having no access to food given the existing levels of poverty that are caused by the destruction of climate change.
The IPCC report sounds the bell for an imminent transformation of our society and economies. Though it cautions us about the climate spiraling out of control and also indicating that the temperatures are on the course to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, the report puts the blame on human activity as being responsible for global warming shifting the blame from the current economic status-quo which burns up fossil fuels to generate profit for its production. The current economic system does not offer an antidote for the climate crisis that we are facing- capitalism is no longer sustainable just inasmuch as Eskom is no longer sustainable with providing us with energy.
September 25th is marked as Global Climate Strike day- young people across the globe are demanding a radical transformation. This marks a first step towards building an international solidarity that will hopefully include trade-union movements and other progressive movements. The call for a just socially-owned renewable energy should transcend in calling for central democratic control of production that will entail producing for the needs and consumption not for profit.