logo GGHH man with t-shirt reading 'It is no measure of heath to be well-adjusted in a profoundly sick society'

groundWork is a non-profit environmental justice service and developmental organization working primarily in Southern Africa in the areas of Climate & Energy Justice, Coal, Environmental Health, Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and Waste. groundWork is the South African member of Health Care Without Harm and Friends of the Earth International.


Ground-breaking litigation sees organisations challenge new power plant in Richards Bay

All fossil fuels (including gas) are accelerators of the climate threat

06 May 2021 - In April 2021, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and groundWork filed review papers in the Pretoria High Court challenging the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s authorisation of the Richards Bay 3000MW Combined Cycle Power Plant. This landmark litigation marks the first time that a gas-to-power plant has been challenged in a court in South Africa.

Represented by environmental law specialists, Cullinan and Associates, and supported by the Natural Justice organisation, SDCEA and groundWork are acting in the interests of the public and the environment in challenging the authorisation granted to state-owned public utility, Eskom. 

SDCEA and groundWork have approached the High Court to review Minister Barbara Creecy's rejection of the organisations’ appeal against this authorisation.

Read the full media release here.

SA’s revised climate plans are not ambitious enough

Life After Coal Campaign partners Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), groundWork and Earthlife Africa, along with several civil society groups, have submitted comments on South Africa’s draft updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – the commitment to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement.

04 May 2021 - In written arguments submitted on 30 April 2021, ahead of Workers’ Day, the Life After Coal campaign has called on government to set more ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets in the effort to diversify South Africa’s energy mix.

As Africa’s worst polluter and most industrialised country, South Africa has an important obligation to accelerate its efforts to cut GHG emission reductions, in order to meet its legal obligations under the Constitution, domestic and international laws and secure climate justice that lays the basis for a just transition for the Continent.

In updating its 2015 NDC - South Africa’s voluntary emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement - the government has sought to tighten SA’s GHG emission targets. However, it has opted for conservative and unambitious GHG emission ranges for 2021 to 2030, with the consequence that much steeper emission reductions would be needed after 2030. This is despite a call from a United Nation’s intergovernmental climate change panel (the IPCC) for the world to halve its GHG emissions by 2030 to stand a chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Read the full media release here.

groundWork and Earthlife Africa submit comments on South Africa’s new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) on 30th April 2021.

01 May 2021 - The Paris Agreement aims to keep global warming to “well below 2°C” and less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures. The achievement of these goals is dependent on the achievement of the NDC to reduce emissions. Global emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050. Steeper reductions are needed to increase our odds of survival.  The combination of all the NDC submitted in 2015, however, added up to global warming of 4°C or more. The second round of NDC seems highly unlikely to keep global averages below 3°C. Countries are not held accountable to their ‘contributions’ or commitments. And SA fails in this regard.  The longer we wait, the further we are from reaching this goal, while increasing climate change impacts, leaving us in a climate emergency.

South Africa’s continued reliance on fossil fuels and delayed shift to renewable energy that is socially owned, will continue to make South Africa a pariah in climate justice circles.  The South African government needs to take urgent action now by clearly defining what it is going to do to phase out fossil fuels, within what time framework, and why they need to make this happen. President Cyril Ramaphosa says that the country's response to climate change will be guided by the Presidential Coordinating Commission on Climate Change. The commission will work on a just transition to a low-carbon economy and a climate-resilient society, and will ensure that it is in consultation with the most vulnerable.

Climate change will weigh most heavily on the poor and vulnerable, and so addressing challenges and emerging solutions including adaptation and mitigation measures should focus on this area of society to ensure environmental and social transformation. Poverty and inequality have increased since 1994. The NDC says, “A just transition means leaving no-one behind”. But with no transition at all and 60% of our country in poverty, people are already ‘left behind’.  The proposed Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) reflect this inequality.  Consultation for the NDC is limited. The Department of Fisheries, Forestry and the Environment needs to recognise that government’s primary obligation is to its people and climate response including the NDC should come from a single process of deep and continuing engagement with people within an open democracy framework.

You can read groundWork and Earthlife Africa's comments on South Africa's new Nationally Determined Contribution here.

Karpowerships Dodgy Procurement Process Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

29 April 2021 - The procurement of Karpowership services as “emergency” power will lock the country into gas for the next 20 years, increasing electricity tariffs and move us away from the presidential commitment to a just transition and low carbon economy.

On 31 March groundWork submitted Environmental Impact Assessment Report comments for the proposed gas combustion Karpowerships application in all three ports, namely Richards Bay, Saldhanha Bay and the Port of Ngqura.

Community organisations have called for Public Hearings on the Risk Mitigation Independent Powers Producers Procurement Programme (RMIPPP), and the selection of Karpowerships as a preferred bidder, taking the lion’s share of the energy procurement. Civil society has questioned how a foreign-owned company was able to obtain exemptions from local content and put us at further risk to climate change impacts with increased greenhouse gas emissions associated with gas.  Renewable energy solutions which are more affordable, sustainable, accessible, and cleaner, with better local content prospects have been deliberately excluded in the build-up to the procurement process.

Read the full news item here.

Total Postpones and Withdraws

Activists protest Total's drilling plans

14 April 2021 - After months of resisting Total's (TEPSA) application for an Environmental Authorisation (EA) for an additional ten exploration drill wells and seismic testing in Block 11B/12B, the company has withdrawn the application. The proposed exploration was to take place east of the existing exploration wells Brulpadda and Luiperd 1 situated in middle of the Algulhas current off the South African coast near Mossel Bay.

Community groups and organisations groundWork, SDCEA, JA!, Oceans Not Oil, Green Connection, Centre for Environmental Rights, Frack Free SA, Ban Fracking SA, fisherfolk and coastal communities welcome the decision but are seeking clarity on the reasons behind the decision. We await a response from the Environmental Assessment Practitioner, Matthew Hemming of SLR following emails requesting reasons. The SLR’s attached notification letter stated that the Total “has decided to postpose their application for additional drilling” and that the “application for the EA.. has been withdrawn and this ESIA (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment) process has been terminated”.  Their Holding Statement released on 14th April 2021 indicate that once geotechnical studies are completed, TEPSA will review its activities and relaunch an application. The findings of these studies will have to be made public. There must be full transparency and accountability for energy decision-making.

Read the full media release and additional documentation here.

The Global Road Map for Zero Emission Health Care

The first-ever guide for how the health sector can align with the Paris Agreement ambition to keep warming below 1.5 degrees

14 April 2021 - Today, Health Care Without Harm, in collaboration with Arup, will launch The Global Road Map for Health Care Decarbonization: a navigational tool for achieving zero emissions with climate resilience and health equity at the 2021 Skoll World Forum

The Road Map is the first of its kind to chart a global health care course to zero emissions by 2050. Health care’s climate footprint is already substantial, equaling 4.4% of net global emissions. Without climate action inside and outside the sector, health care’s climate emissions would more than triple to over six gigatons a year by 2050, equal to annual emissions from 770 coal-fired power plants. 

If countries can meet their Paris Agreement commitments, this could cut projected health care emissions growth by 70%, still leaving a large gap to zero emissions. The Road Map demonstrates how health care can implement seven high-impact actions to further reduce sector emissions by 44 gigatons over 36 years, equivalent to keeping more than 2.7 billion barrels of oil in the ground each year.

Read the full media release here.

Thousands of South Africans call for stricter plastic regulations from the DEFF Director General

Plastic waste at dumpsite

13 April 2021 - Greenpeace Africa and Break Free From Plastic are urging South Africans to join thousands of others in commenting on new regulations to address the nation’s plastic pollution crisis.

The anti-single-use plastic coalition is calling for the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) Director-General Anben Pillay to adopt stricter measures to cut down production of single-use plastic on top of amendments already proposed. Over the weekend, 2,000 people have made submissions to the department via the coalition’s online form, which lets people send emails directly to the department. 

"Plastic is a threat to our health. Research repeatedly shows the health of the environment is closely linked to human health. In the context of the current pandemic, it has never been more important to put in place measures to prevent further threats to our safety," said Greenpeace Africa Pan-African Plastic Project Lead, Angelo Louw.

Read the full media release here.

For earlier news and our news archives click here, or here to access our collection of media items.