PERHAPS, one day, an article on climate change will be written that tells us that things are getting better. Sadly, this is not that article and that day, if it ever comes, is a long way in the future. Though climate change has largely disappeared from the public agenda in South Africa since the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban in December 2011, the problem itself remains stubbornly immune to fluctuations in media attention.
Two recent climate-change updates from the World Bank and International Energy Agency have restated the scale and dangers of the problem. The reports should make anyone younger than 50 worry about the future, because, on present emissions trends, significant effects are predicted in just the next 30 years. Some of the worst effects will hit sub-Saharan Africa.
In December 2011 the world will again be watching South Africa, focused on an event that might be remembered far longer than the World Cup — the 17th meeting of the parties to the United Nation’s climate convention.
The hope of many is that the world may finally reach a just, legally binding and ambitious agreement on cutting carbon emissions — the agreement that Copenhagen failed to deliver.
Putting aside whether that’s likely, this means that an awful lot of attention is going to be focused on South Africa and raises the question — what example are we, as the hosts, going to be setting? Assuming we don’t want to be shuffling about trying to avoid the question, there are many exciting possibilities.
The most urgent step is a real commitment to energy efficiency. It is the first and easiest way to cut carbon emissions, one that often pays for itself, one that Eskom admits neglecting (Mail & Guardian, July 11), and for which researchers suspect there is immense potential. Used to having some of the world’s cheapest electricity, we have become immensely wasteful.
We could make it illegal to build RDP houses that do not meet the basic standards for energy efficiency much less human health. Women living in basic “eco-houses” do not celebrate cutting their carbon emissions — they celebrate having children who are not constantly ill. Continue reading M&G: ‘Getting our greenhouse in order’