Report on November´s Million Climate Jobs Meeting

Million Climate Jobs Monthly Meetings have been taking place at AIDC´s premises since 2012. The main new items at the most recent meeting on 24th November 2016, were mine reclamation, COP 22 and the release of the new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). It was well attended by approximately 30 participants. Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2016 There was a short input and discussion about the release of the draft for a new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Integrated Energy Plan(IEP). Three Speakers were invited to share their thoughts: Liz McDaid (Southern African Faith Communities´ Environment Institute), Nicole Loser (Center for Environmental Rights) and Richard Halsey (Project 90). A draft for the new IRP/IEP was released just two days before. As the IEP serves only as a guide, the discussion mainly was about the IRP, which includes legally enforceable infrastructure plans. The main alterations compared to the existing IRP are:
  • New Nuclear Power Plant pushed back to 2037 (used to be 2030)
  • New Coal Power Plants pushed back to 2028 (used to be 2021)
  • Increase of renewable energies, but not ambitious enough
The speakers agreed that it is an improvement that the IRP is about to be updated at all. Nevertheless we should stay suspicious for several reasons.  It seems that the government does not put all of its cards on the table. The documents released on 22nd November were not the IRP in total, but only its base case and assumptions. The other important parts are supposed to be gazetted on 25th November. Even the released documents are ominous. The base case as starting point already allows too much emission to meet the climate change limits. Some of the assumptions are just not reasonable as well. The energy demand is calculated without attempts to increase energy efficiency, the IRP is premised on an unexplained, sudden increase of GDP from next year and the cost of renewable energies are not thecurrent ones that are both well-established and cheaper.Moreover, a near doubling of electricity demand must be seen to be a serious exaggeration. The need to cover this demand serves as an excuse to invest in new nuclear power plants. That is especially suspicious because the 2013 IRP draft de-prioritised new nuclear, but it has just vanished.  The most recent IRP draft seems to follow Eskom´s interest in nuclear energy more than the necessity to build a sustainable energy mix. Comments on the draft by the public can handed in during December and January. Considering the Festive Season it is practically just about one month to work through all the documents – obviously not enough time. COP 22 Thembeka Majali (AIDC) gave a report about COP 22 in Marrakesh. The Moroccan Climate Justice Coalition had organized space for discussion outside the official UN negotiations for 30000 participants from all over the world, including a delegation from Rural Women´s Assembly and People´s dialogue. The week was full of fruitful discussions. Experiences of climate change related impacts, especially on small scale farmers and fishermen, were shared. On 16th November a symbolic protest march by unions and civil society movements took place in the streets of Marrakesh. It was agreed on the necessity to intensify mobilization and to monitor the implementation of Paris agreement. An African Declaration and an international declaration were released to put it on record. Thembeka additionally reported on interesting approaches in Portugal and Canada. In these countries climate change is a topic in high schools and university education. When students join the workforce they are informed well and can put pressure on local governments. Mine Reclamation Mariette Liefferink (Federation for a sustainable environment) reported on the draft booklet she has been commissioned to write by AIDC. Gold mining has been taking place in the West Rand area since 1886. Mining has a huge impact on environment, even after the end of mining activities. Mining waste is dumped on open tailing storage facilities, although it is high in Uranium. These mine dumps are a main source of radioactive dust fallout. An even bigger problem is acid mine drainage. The basins excavated during the mining process get flooded with rain- or ground water. The disturbed rock releases sulphur ions, which decrease the pH-value to acidic levels.The acidity dissolves metals such as copper, aluminum and uranium from the rock. Water naturally contains metal ions, but the concentration in acid mine drainage is toxic. The pollution does not only migrate through interconnected mine compartments, but reaches the surface area as well when water is pumped out to receptor dams. Contaminated water leaking or decanting from receptor dams contaminates rivers and soil in the surrounding area. This happens very close to settlements. For example Soweto is partly built on top of a mine dump. People living under these conditions are exposed to serious health hazards. The pollution enters the food chain, as crops grown on contaminated soil and cattle grazing there accumulate the metal ions. The analysis of a cow´s kidney has shown an amount of accumulated uranium increased by 4350 times compared to cattle grazing on clean meadows. Within humans, long term exposure causes cancer, kidney failure, dysfunction of endocrine glands and neural retardation of the fetus. Mine reclamation means the process of restoring land influenced by previous mining activities to a natural or economically usable state. The pollution described above has happened for years without the government taking action. In 2012 the pollution was declared an emergency and decisions were made without public participation or an environmental impact assessment. Neutralization of acid mine drainage was agreed on as the measure of choice for short and middle term. When lime is added to acid mine drainage its pH-value rises to alkaline level what causes the precipitation of dissolved metals. The level of sulphur ions is still far too high to pump the water back into natural river systems. The measure of choice should be desalination. Unfortunately, the government has postponed the establishment of this method from 2014 to 2020, because it is significantly more expensive. The mining companies´ restoration funds are far too low to cover the costs and the companies are not committed to spend the money for this purpose, so in fact they externalize the costs to the tax payer. Mariette suggests mining the precipitated metals, in order to use the profit as a contribution to restoration processes. Further Announcements:
  • James Irlam - Fossil Free South Africa: Calls to UCT to look at its divestments were delayed by student´s protest but are submitted now. Next year there should be a think tank working on divestment strategies. The Green Campus Initiative should be included to mobilize more students.
  • Linda Baker – The Enviropedia: Advertisement for Ecologic Awards. Whoever knows somebody who deserves an award for his or her commitment to environmental activism is welcome to nominate this person. More information is available here
  • Lucia Winkler – Rain Water Harvesting animation: Lucia presented her work-in-progress for popularizing the benefits – including jobs – of harvesting the rainwater for many township dwellers.  Time constraints meant very limited time for discussion.  The call was therefore for for feedback. Lucia specifically requested pictures of the “Blue Box” to be sent to her.
Next Meeting: Agreed that it would be on 26th January 2017, with the main new item being an input by Robert Andrews on “Alternative backyard agriculture using waste water”   Lucia 28/11/16 
Posted in AIDC Events

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