Species depletion, severe flooding, fires and health impacts from burning tires, gas from illegal dumping sites, constant sewage flows and other pollution are named as the impacts of climate change that people in the Cape Metropolitan Region are facing during the final public hearing on climate change law at the Desmond Tutu Community Hall in Khayelitsha on July 16.
the Climate Change Bill It has undergone widespread nationwide public consultation over the past year after it was introduced to parliament in February 2022. The bill seeks to ensure the development of a coordinated, integrated and effective nationwide response to climate change and management of the effects of climate change. It also aims to ensure a just, long-term transition for South Africa to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society.
During the hearing, it was clear that people in informal settlements and vulnerable, poverty-stricken communities are aware that their lives, health and livelihoods are increasingly affected by climate change. However, they said more education and awareness is needed.
The daily impact of the climate crisis
One of the orders came from Mhlewngi Nicolas, a small fisherman from our efforts, Hout Bay, who said he, along with other fishermen, was concerned about climate change leading to further declines in fish stocks. Some species of fish that were abundant in the ocean 20 years ago are now rare, he said, while others have completely disappeared from the waters they used to frequent.
Nicholas, who only discovered the bill on the morning of the hearing, echoed sentiments of others who said the government and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Forests, Fisheries and the Environment should have done more to inform and educate communities about the hearings.
Thandiswa Polani, chairperson of the Koyasa Health Forum in Khayelitsha, said, “I fully agree and support the bill, but there are things we notice as a society that do not necessarily comply with the law or are of a legal nature.
“For example, in our communities we have sewage water, which we smell every day. This is very unhealthy and affects us in a very negative way as a society. We also have a problem with small business owners, for example, those who always burn their barbecue meat on fire, so when people with chest problems go through, their health is affected.”
Bolani said that most of the buildings where community members live are made of asbestos and residents generally burn a lot of paraffin.
“These are part of the health issues… that affect us as a society. Other companies also affect our health and we feel we must highlight the issue of the companies around us that contribute to negative impacts on the environment, where we also end up suffering as a society.”
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Mzikazi Tuani, a community leader from the second township in Khayelitsha, said: “I am in favor of this law, but let me explain why. I have stayed in the huts for 30 years and we understand very clearly that global warming is affecting us… It is overcrowded where I am staying and those who are watching me now have seen the tragedy we lived through as the rock holes happen and release stresses that affect those who stay there and around us… As I speak now there are sick people.”
In the second city and our effortsand shanty fires and severe flooding throughout the year, killing, injuring and displacing many. Tuani added that she is concerned about illegal junkyards in their communities where wires burn while they sleep at night, “affecting our breathing.”
Young alumni of Project 90 by 2030, a Khayelitsha-based social and environmental justice organization, have made presentations calling for the bill to be more robust and enforceable, including a strict deadline for achieving net zero carbon emissions.
polluters held accountable
Jackie Tuck, of Extinction Rebellion in Cape Town, said the bill should create enforcement power against polluters and make it a crime for a company or organization to exceed their carbon allowance.
“We are concerned that those who need to move away from fossil fuels benefit greatly from the fossil fuel industry, and will not do so without clear negative consequences for continuing. We are concerned that some may pay fines and small fines to continue their ‘business as usual’ and thus plunge us all down the path of destroying the planet,” she said.
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Reporting in a personal capacity, Rep. Travers LeGoff reiterated that “the Climate Change Act should impose a range of harsh criminal and financial penalties on companies for failing to adhere to carbon budgets and sector targets.
“The bill should make it explicitly clear in its own language and in law that corporate directors can be directly held personally liable, and individually prosecuted for non-compliance by the companies they lead…
Cape Town’s response
In response to questions about the impact of dumping sites on the population, the City of Cape Town said: “Although there are many negative impacts of illegal dumping on community health and well-being, and the City is working prudently to address this, conditions in illegal dumping hotspots are not conducive to the generation of significant amounts of greenhouse gases, and illegal dumping spots are not important drivers of climate change in the same way.
“However, if waste is incinerated, as is fairly common, not only will there be an impact in terms of climate change but noxious fumes can be produced that are detrimental to the health of the community. We ask that you please refrain from this practice.”
Regarding concerns about gas released from illegal landfills contributing to global warming, the city advised that landfill gas is only produced when organic waste decomposes anaerobically (in the absence of oxygen). These conditions are created when waste is compacted at a landfill.
Beverly van Reenen, Mayco Energy Member in Cape Town, agreed that socially and economically vulnerable people are likely to be disproportionately affected by climate change, particularly those living in informal settlements.
“the City Climate Change Action Plan It focuses on reducing these risks through a range of actions, including those focused on heat, water resilience, flooding, fire risk management, integrating climate risks into human settlement planning, and developing a circular waste economy to reduce waste and dumping, among others.
Some of the actions in the Climate Action Plan that have been specifically formulated to address the needs of vulnerable groups living in low-income and informal areas include:
- Develop and implement a network of cooling centers to reduce risks during heat waves and high heat days;
- a tree planting program to reduce the heat island effect and provide shade; And
- Restoring city rivers and wetlands to create livable urban waterways.
“A number of materials have been developed to enable residents to take appropriate action to address climate change in their lives. Smart Living Handbook It contains a number of practical actions that families at all income levels can take to live more sustainably, save money and reduce risk,” said Van Reenen.
What’s next for the climate change bill?
The Portfolio Committee on Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment will begin its session from the first week of August to consider all submissions and inputs related to the bill. This will be followed by an opportunity for the parties to propose amendments before returning the bill to the National Assembly for debate.
Committee member and Rep. David Bryant, DA, said, “The majority of the submissions made during the public hearings were in support of the bill, but it must be said that many members of the public have struggled with the concept of climate change and the details in the bill. Many of the contributions made during the public hearings were not related to the bill itself.”
He said there was a consistent feeling expressed by climate change NGOs that the bill was not punitive enough when it came to companies not complying with emissions standards.
“We also heard concerns about the functioning and current state of the Presidential Climate Commission and how best to move this forward. Another key issue raised by members of the public was ensuring the move away from coal does not deepen societal inequality by causing more job losses, especially in counties such as Mpumalanga,” Bryant said. DM
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