Climate change is becoming an increasingly contentious issue in the South African context, following a series of wild storms that have ripped through the country this year.
Earlier this year, mother nature unleashed her wrath in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Lives were lost and property was completely destroyed.
The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) said there needed to be more awareness on climate change, following the latest storm – also in KZN – which wreaked havoc at Thokazi in the Zululand District this week.
Provincial Spokesperson on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in KZN, Phumzile Buthelezi, said the conversation on climate change had not been extensive enough in South Africa, adding that it was becoming an increasingly urgent matter.
“Climate change is not a distant threat: it is already costing the people of this country severely,” said Buthelezi.
“The intensity and destructive force of these storms should come as no surprise. It is just foreshadowing for a future we have to prepare ourselves of. Seas are getting closer and closer to where we live. I believe that there is an urgent need for more climate change awareness outreach programmes to ensure that everyone knows what climate change is about,” added Buthelezi.
So, where does the buck actually stop on climate change?
Is it a government problem? Is it a civil society issue? Does the private sector need to feature prominently in the discussion? These are all questions that need to be answered and Buthelezi thinks all stakeholders need to be involved.
“We urge businesses to go green to benefit both themselves and the environment. South Africa is affected by climate change, so using renewable energy is necessary to protect the environment,” she said.
“We can’t rely on coal plants because they are very harmful to the environment. Climate change requires a shift in thinking and behaviour. There are costs to inaction and there are risks if we don’t plan ahead. South Africa must consider vulnerabilities caused by changing weather patterns in areas such as public safety and emergency response, roads and other infrastructure, buildings and homes,” added Buthelezi.
“In addition, we urge municipalities to play their role in educating their communities about climate change. Despite our laws and regulations requiring local government to take action to reduce the risk of disasters, planning for climate change is still no more than sophisticated rhetoric for some municipalities.
“This lack of urgency can be ascribed to local municipalities having other, more pressing developmental priorities. It would, however, be short-sighted of municipalities not to plan for climate change, as major setbacks in hard-won economic and social development follow a disaster.Each of us has a responsibility to protect the welfare of our planet, for one another and for future generations.”