A pile of rubbish, mainly plastic, on the beach at the mouth of the uMngeni River in Durban. Picture: Willem Deyzel
A pile of rubbish, mainly plastic, on the beach at the mouth of the uMngeni River in Durban. Picture: Willem Deyzel

Why climate change should be an election issue

By Waseem Carrim Time of article published May 1, 2019

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Many issues have dominated election season in South Africa, however climate change has strangely been absent from the conversation.

Few challenges facing the world are more urgent than combating climate change. The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear.

Sea levels are rising. Coastlines are shrinking. We’ve seen record drought, spreading famine, and storms that are growing stronger with each passing season.

Climate change and our dependence on oil and coal, if left unaddressed, will continue to weaken our economy.

Since the election of Donald Trump in the US he has firmly taken off the table any US involvement in the fight against climate change.

This has directly deviated from the position of his predecessor, Barack Obama, under whose presidency unprecedented global climate accords were signed and committed to.

This has possibly led to the lull that we witness in the climate change conversation and why perhaps it does not dominate headlines as it did in the past.

That however, should not be a reason for us to pull back, but rather an opportunity for South Africa to lead the world again.

Why should these issues be important to us? We all know the problems with Eskom, including that it is a huge carbon emitter, and changing the mix of our energy supply can only be beneficial to us as citizens.

Secondly, the rising petrol prices have a severe effect on consumers and the economy - producing a long-term solution to reduce our reliance on oil can have a vast impact on us as citizens by creating a greater level of stability.

We also know that our economy needs a boost - creating new industries and sectors is a way we can get the economy going again. Do we just want to read about how Tesla is changing the world - or do we want to do it ourselves?

Lastly, we must over the next 25 years avoid thinking in five-year election cycles - what kind of world do we want to leave behind for our children?

The sixth administration that will lead us should make climate change a new chapter in South Africa’s global leadership.

We must no longer just discuss, but invest in solar power, wind power, and next-generation biofuels. We must tap into nuclear power, while making sure it’s affordable and safe; and we must develop clean coal technologies.

This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making South Africa more secure; and it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving the planet. It will also help us transform our industries, and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced.

Now is the time to confront this challenge. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high; the consequences too serious.

Stopping climate change won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. But it is a platform for us to lead the world and create magnitudes of opportunities in the process.

* Carrim is the chief executive of the National Youth Development Agency.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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