Fostering climate justice needs to be a priority at this election.
Here is SAFCEI’s summary of what our political parties say about climate change and hence how far we could trust them with our future:
- Green Party
It looks at the extent to which the political parties have serious plans to ensure a comprehensive, rapid and just transition to a low-carbon and sustainable future for South Africa.
- Climate change is the main existential crisis of the day together with species extinction, and a certain threat to South Africa’s developmental objectives, should we continue along the current lines of socio-economic development.
- The state of our climate and environment is intrinsically linked to key concerns such as economic and social inequality, health, energy access, housing, as well as governance and corruption. The drivers of climate change are often the source of other social, economic and environmental ills. Conversely, the impacts of climate change worsen socio-economic inequalities.
- Voters should be critical of measures that propose to address climate change in isolation from other economic and developmental issues. We need a climate-sensitive sustainable development agenda that will connects all the dots. Having climate and environmental considerations as a thread running through the manifestos reveals an understanding of what it will take to ensure a just transition to a low-carbon and just society – that is, a plan to leave nobody behind as we change the way we produce and consume things and relate to our natural environment.
- Pitting economic growth and jobs against sustainable environmental practices is very artificial and misleading, unless one hopes to continue doing business as usual and preserving the status quo. We need to rapidly mainstream climate change response in all strategic planning, policies and programmes, to allow future generations of South Africans to live a decent life. We must ensure that this transition is a just one, by supporting the ones whose jobs will be affected.
- The parties’ outlook on governance models and principles is indicative of the extent to which they are prepared to allow citizens a voice in decision-making over the next five years. A responsive and accountable government will be critical to drive the changes needed to achieve a sustainable a just society.
Key take-aways from the manifestos’ analysis:
- The political agenda for this election reflects the fact that climate change is not (yet) a priority concern for most people in South Africa. One would hope the main political parties would show leadership by putting emphasis on the issue commensurate with the stakes, and by mainstreaming climate change response into all relevant policy sectors. It is not the case: while climate change and environmental protection are mentioned in varying degrees in the manifestos reviewed for the scorecard, they lack a comprehensive, ambitious and innovative vision of what a low-carbon, just and inclusive society should look like – and of the deep systemic transformation that must take place to achieve it. The exception would be the Green Party, which best articulates climate and environmental action into their political vision, and calls for a radical new approach to socio-economic development and governance.
- The DA, EFF, UDM, COPE, IFP, GOOD Party, Green Party and SRWP do mention climate change and environmental sustainability as key issues that South Africa needs to address in their overall vision. This is a welcome inclusion. Even so, they fall short from adequately mainstreaming these issues throughout their programme for the next five years. This is best illustrated by the fact that each of them chose to dedicate a specific section of their political programme to climate change, rather than emphasising how it intersects with other items on our developmental agenda. The Green Party, ANC and EFF manifestos are the only ones making cross-sectional references, but limited for the latter two.
- In the same vein, the EFF and UDM both allude to the need to overcome the (perceived) conflicts between economic and environmental or climatic imperatives, and to better link the two. One would have expected this would translate into a coherent response throughout their policy proposals. Sadly, their manifestos like those of the several other parties suggest a “trade-offs” approach to climate change, rife with inconsistencies. Case in point, several parties suggest that job creation and economic growth justify unsustainable practices. A typical example is the contradiction between carbon emission reductions 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. On the contrary, SRWP calls for a slow-down on mining due to concerns for mining-affected communities. DA, EFF, UDM, COPE highlight the potential of the green economy, but one would have hoped this would have underpinned their general economic outlook.
- The FF+ and Green Party are clear about their intention to drive a shift away from fossil fuels towards cheaper and cleaner renewable energy, with more or less specific targets. The GOOD Party also suggests that renewable energy should become prominent. The other parties are either silent, or advocate an “all of the above” energy mix at odds with environmental, economic and social justice considerations.
- It seems as though most political parties are oblivious to the urgency and scale of the climate crisis and how it is going to undermine our ability to achieve socio-economic justice in the very near future. This doesn’t apply to the Green Party, which aims to bring “immediate attention (…) to the urgency of our situation (…) and the steps required to address this”. COPE also acknowledges the seriousness of climate change, but fails to explain how to operationalise its response. The EFF hints that we urgently need to bring down greenhouse gas emissions; it is in fact the only manifesto that sets a hard reduction target.
- The ANC, EFF and SRWP are the only ones to mention the need to ensure a just transition in the energy sector through reskilling. It is unclear how the other contesting parties propose to ensure that the shift to a low-carbon economy will be fair and provide for those dependent on high-emitting sectors for their livelihoods.
- In terms of adaptation and climate resilience, only the ANC and DA include suggestions for the agricultural sector and water infrastructures respectively. The IFP advocates “climate resilient development measures” without substantiating what they would consist of.
Download full analysis here.