July community update – SA’s first big climate change court case, and Disobedience

IMG_4313We held our second community update for 2017 at 75 Harrington Street on Wednesday 26 July, with around 25 guests attending. (75 Harrington is a community hub and co-working space in the heart of Cape Town; our thanks to Steve Harris and his team, our hosts.

After we’d reiterated the basics of our divestment campaign, Christine Reddell, from the Centre for Environmental Rights, spoke about South Africa’s first big climate change court case – which saw our Minister for the Environment ordered to consider the climate impacts of the proposed Thabametsi coal power station in deciding whether or not to authorise its construction. The judgment confirmed that the information in the initial environmental impact assessment was inadequate for fully assessing the likely climate impacts of Thabametsi. The Minister is now obliged to consider a full climate change impact assessment, and public comment, before proceeding to authorise – or not.

CER believes the judgment will make it increasingly difficult to authorise coal power in South Africa, given their unavoidable impacts, our high levels of vulnerability to climate change, and the availability of cheaper, lower-impact alternatives (wind & solar).

The Thabametsi case is important to our divestment campaign because most of our big SA banks – Nedbank (the ‘Green bank’), Standard Bank, ABSA, and Rand Merchant Bank – are funding Thabametsi with our savings and investment,  despite most having proclaimed their concern over climate change. It’s also funded by the Development Bank of South Africa, supposedly committed to sustainable development, and the Unemployment Insurance Fund – which means that if Thabametsi is approved but later becomes a stranded asset, jobless South Africans stand to lose out.

We also screened the 350.org documentary Disobedience, which tells the stories of communities standing up against fossil fuels around the world – in the Philippines, the US and Germany in particular.

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