Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo announces he intends to step down by the end of 2015
31 March, 2015 - After five and a half years as the head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo today announced his decision to step down as the organisation's Executive Director. In agreement with the Board of Greenpeace International, Kumi is staying on until 31 December 2015, at the latest, to ensure a smooth transition to new leadership. The Board is now embarking on the difficult task of searching for a replacement. Meanwhile, Kumi continues in his current role of leading Greenpeace and promoting the organisation's campaigns.
COMMUNITIES CALL FOR CRACK DOWN ON COAL ACTIVITIES - Communities meet top officials at DMR and Kuyasa Mining
eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, South Africa, 25 March 2015 – Earlier today, the Department of Mineral Resoures’s (DMR) Mining Economist Ntshele Phasha and Kuyasa Mining’s Director Ayanda Bam were met by approximately 250 peaceful marchers from the Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN) and signed the Network’s memorandum outlining the lived realities of communities living next to coal mines and coal-fired power stations.
“We live with and have first-hand experience of the devastation of coal mining and coal fired facilities. Ours is a voice that has been for far too long ignored for the benefit of corporate profit derived from coal,” the memorandum states.
Kuyasa Mining’s subsidiary KiPower is proposing a 600MW (to be increased to 2000MW) coal-fired power station for Delmas. This was the main target for the march as the Highveld is already recognised as a heavily polluted area and does not need another polluting power station. The DMR was addressed as it interacts with Kuyasa Mining and all other mining companies, an important target as people suffer daily from the impacts of mines on their health, water and agricultural land.
RESPONSE TO SHELL BACKING OUT OF KAROO
Graaf Reinet and Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 20 May 2015 – The Southern Cape Land Committee (SCLC)  and groundWork  welcome the announcement that Shell will not “aggressively” continue to pursue their application for an exploratory license to frack for shale. This is in line with international trends in the fracking industry which is increasingly realizing that the failure to generate sufficient profits makes fracking unviable and dangerous.
Parallel to this are the various struggles of local resistance globally, that are gaining momentum and highlighting to the world real concern that society has about the negative environmental impact of fracking.
From the outset Shell’s aggressive and arrogant attitude was apparent in the inflated promises of jobs and investment, in the disregard for local people’s opinions and in the obvious hope that legislation would favour investors above all else. SCLC is hopeful that the other companies who are applying for licenses, Bundu and Falcon, will follow this example.
PUSH NORWEGIAN PENSION FUND TO INCREASE DIVESTMENT FROM COAL
20 March 2015 - According to a recent article published in The Guardian:
“Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), worth $850bn (£556bn) and founded on the nation’s oil and gas wealth, revealed a total of 114 companies had been dumped on environmental and climate grounds in its first report on responsible investing… The companies divested also include tar sands producers, cement makers and gold miners. As part of a fast-growing campaign, over $50bn in fossil fuel company stocks have been divested by 180 organisations on the basis that their business models are incompatible with the pledge by the world’s governments to tackle global warming. But the GPFG is the highest profile institution to divest to date.”
URGE THE GATES AND WELLCOME TRUST FOUNDATIONS TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS
17 March 2015 - The Guardian, one of the world’s most respected and influential newspapers, is today joining the fight to keep fossil fuels underground by launching its very own divestment campaign in partnership with 350.org.
In a watershed moment for the growing divestment movement, The Guardian is setting its sights on the contradictory fossil fuel investments of two of the largest philanthropic health and development organisations - the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. Both are heavily invested in the industry wreaking havoc on our climate - a move that’s completely at odds with their missions to create a better world.
Both foundations are full of good people who recognise the huge threat that climate change poses to the health of millions -- but their investments are completely out of step and actively undermining their own good work. Join our new campaign with The Guardian to end this dangerous double standard now:
Together, we can convince these leading philanthropic organisations to lead by example and stop profiting from the industry wrecking our chances of a safe, healthy future. If the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust divest from fossil fuels, it will send a powerful signal that tackling climate change and promoting global health and development are two sides of the same coin.
We know this can work - it already is! The fossil fuel divestment movement is winning new victories every week - from the City of Oslo to the Rockefeller Foundation - and each act of divestment helps build an even stronger case for keeping fossil fuels underground.
With enough of us on board - and working with The Guardian newspaper - we know we can convince huge health and development charities like Wellcome and Gates to divest and create the watershed moment needed for climate action.
Sign the petition now - and then please share it widely with friends and family.
It’s completely counter-productive to help those affected by climate change using money made from the fossil fuel industry. And it’s increasingly clear that fossil fuels are a bad long term investment. To avoid climate crisis, we’re going to have to leave 80% fossil fuels in the ground -- which means current fossil fuel shares are massively overvalued and investors could lose billions.
This is a battle we must win, and together we will. Over the coming months we’ll be working with The Guardian, Avaaz and other partners to help us secure some major divestment wins around the world - please do join us.
NEVER BEFORE HAVE WE KNOWN SO MUCH AND DONE SO LITTLE: HEALTH, SOCIAL WELL-BEING AND CLIMATE CHANGE
11 March 2015 - Imagine you take your 3-week old baby to the doctor with a suspected infection and fever of more than 38°C. Would you want the doctor to take specimens for bacterial culture and then wait several days for absolute certainty that there is a bacterial infection before treating your child or would you want treatment immediately? Most doctors would treat immediately because they know that the risk of calamity is real and if they wait it may be too late. This type of decision making, familiar to all health professionals, is what is required of us if we are to avert a human and planetary crisis in the coming decades.
The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability of communities represents a consensus on the latest evidence from hundreds of scientists who have themselves appraised the work of thousands of their colleagues from around the world. The report spells out the expected impacts of climate change on human health and social wellbeing.
Underlying the anticipated effects on human health and social wellbeing are the measured changes in the climate system itself and a variety of possible future scenarios. These scenarios have different magnitudes of impact, depending on whether we continue with business as usual in terms of greenhouse emissions and on the complexity of the interaction between the climate, natural and social systems.
LATEST NEWSLETTER RELEASED
10 March 2015 - The latest groundWork Newsletter (March 2015) has just been released. You can access it from the NEWSLETTER page or by clicking here.
BREATHING SPACE FOR POLLUTERS AT EXPENSE OF PUBLIC HEALTH
09 March 2015 - On 24 February 2015, the Minister and Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) called a media briefing at Parliament in Cape Town to announce their decisions on 118 applications by 35 large industrial polluting facilities to postpone compliance with air quality laws governing atmospheric emissions.
At the briefing, the National Air Quality Officer announced that the vast majority of applications for postponements from compliance with the so-called “minimum emission standards” have been granted for five years to national electricity service provider Eskom; to refineries such as Engen, Total, Shell, Natref and Sasol; to PPC in the cement manufacturing industry; and to Anglo American Platinum in the platinum mining sector. For all other polluting industries, these standards kick in on 1 April 2015. In some cases, the National Air Quality Officer even granted five years’ postponement of the stricter standards that apply from 1 April 2020.
So without much ado, South Africans have been condemned to at least another five years of pollution that indisputably exceeds standards developed, negotiated with the polluters and promulgated as being the minimum standards that South Africa’s air quality can tolerate.
JOIN IN THE GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION ON UNILEVER
06 March 2015 – 14th anniversary of Kodaikanal - In Kodaikanal, India, Hindustan Unilever operated a second-hand mercury thermometer factory it inherited from Chesebrough Pond's for 18 years. The factory was located adjacent to a dense and biodiverse protected forest that is part of a prominent watershed. On the 16 March 2001, the factory was shut down for violating environmental laws when it was found to have dumped toxic mercury wastes in nearby forests, within its factory premises and in a scrapyard in a crowded part of town. A Government of India report found that the factory's negligence extended even to occupational hygiene and work safety practices. The report found these to be inadequate and concluded that workers and their families had been affected due to mercury exposure of workers in the shop-floor.
The people of Kodaikanal are calling on you for solidarity in their struggle.
TOXIC AIR IS NOW LEGAL AIR
05 March 2015 - President Mandela promised cleaner, less toxic air for communities around industrial plants in 1995. President Zuma's administration broke this promise on Tuesday, 24 February 2014.
When government granted Eskom, Sasol, Engen and other industries postponements for meeting air quality standards this week, it condemned communities near those industries to years of toxic, life-threatening pollution. The African National Congress was elected into government to protect people, not poison them.
The Air Quality Act is supposed to ensure that the management of air pollution in South Africa is not only at the point where we breathe air, but also at the source of where the pollution is created; a critical point focusing on the polluter. The decision taken by government has fatal impacts as Eskom will kill, prematurely, about 20,000 people over the remaining life of the power plants – including approximately 1,600 deaths of young children.
DEATH SENTENCE FOR PEOPLE OF THE HIGHVELD AND VAAL
eMalahleni, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, 25 February 2015 – The decision taken yesterday by the Department of Environmental Affairs to grant Eskom permission to postpone complying with the minimum emission standards (MES) is a clear disregard for the people of the already heavily polluted areas of the Highveld and Vaal. Their right to environmental health and well-being as provided for in the Constitution has been ignored, despite South Africa being a democracy for the people.
According to Nomcebo Makhubelo, Coordinator of the Highveld Environmental Justice Network (HEJN):
“We have been opposed to the applications because they meant that industries – in particular Eskom – are ultimately seeking permission to continue destroying the health and lives of ordinary people in the Highveld. It should also be noted that the area is an Air Quality Priority Area, and specific interventions were supposed to bring ambient air quality into compliance with ambient air quality standards. The postponements are a direct contradiction of this goal.”
ANOTHER FIVE YEARS OF TOXIC POLLUTION BY ESKOM
Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, 24 February 2015 – The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has today announced its decision to approve almost all Eskom’s applications to postpone compliance with atmospheric emission standards for 14 of its coal-fired power stations .
A condition of these postponements is that Eskom is required to “implement an offset programme to reduce [particulate matter] pollution in the ambient/receiving environment. A definite offset implementation plan is expected from Eskom by 31 March 2016”.
As civil society organisations who work with and support many affected communities in South Africa’s pollution hotspots, we are extremely disappointed with the DEA’s decision simply to allow Eskom to continue to pollute in excess of what has been agreed as safe standards of emissions for another five years. Furthermore, the decisions themselves are slapdash, with no attempt to set strict and enforceable conditions to ensure that Eskom comes into compliance in the next five years. This shows a complete disregard for DEA’s constitutional responsibility to protect the health of South Africans.
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