Johannesburg - The stark realities of the devastating impacts of the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal and in the Eastern Cape are in the public’s consciousness but climate change hardly stands out as a major, well-articulated issue ahead of next week’s election.
Although climate change and environmental protection are mentioned in varying degrees in the election manifestos of 11 key political parties, they “have failed to mainstream these issues”.
This week, Action 24 - Active Citizens for Responsive Legislatures - released a non-partisan environmental scorecard assessing the manifestos against the benchmarks of the Paris Climate Agreement and recent scientific evidence on climate change.
Produced with co-funding from the EU, its analysis identified the lack of a comprehensive, ambitious and innovative vision of what a low-carbon, just and inclusive society should look like and the deep systemic transformation that must take place to achieve it.
“It’s safe to say that climate change as it’s represented in the manifestos, lacks understanding and lacks acceptance of the fact that it is already happening,” remarked Happy Khambule, senior political adviser at Greenpeace Africa.
Action 24’s analysis found that only the Green Party of SA best articulated climate and environmental action into its political vision, calling for a radical new approach to socio-economic development and governance.
But even the Green Party and the EFF, which were ranked the two “best’ scoring parties, were still found lacking and “don’t come close to offering a satisfactory vision that articulates environmental sustainability or climate, environmental and social justice”.
Noelle Garcin, Action 24 project manager, said the DA, EFF, UDM, Cope, IFP, Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party and Good Party, do mention climate change and environmental sustainability as key issues that South Africa needs to address in their overall vision.
The manifestos of the Green Party, ANC, and EFF make cross-sectional references, but this is limited for the ANC and EFF.
Several parties suggest that job creation and economic growth justify unsustainable practices. “A typical example is the contradiction between carbon emission reduction commitments and other economic proposals such as oil and gas exploration, the continued reliance on ‘clean’ or ‘safe’ coal to power development, or the desire to increase air traffic to and from South Africa as in the DA manifesto.
“The ANC is probably the most explicit in promoting mining and fossil fuels extraction as major economic drivers, regardless of the environmental and socio-economic price tag.
“The DA, EFF, UDM, Cope highlight the potential of the green economy, but one would have hoped this would have underpinned their general economic outlook.”
Climate and environmental issues, Garcin said, are intrinsically linked to key concerns such as economic and social inequality, health, housing, energy access as well as governance and corruption.
“Voters should be critical of measures that propose to address climate change in isolation from other economic and developmental issues.”
Pitting economic growth and jobs against sustainable environmental practices is artificial and misleading, “unless one hopes to continue doing business as usual and preserving the status quo”, Garcin said.