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National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa National Climate Change Response Green Paper 2010 - Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Water and Environmental Affairs 9 March 2011
Summary of NUMSA Submission 1. Climate Change - the debate on climate change is not neutral and the formulation of policy remains a site for serious engagement amongst contesting parties. 2. NUMSA agrees: - the need to reduce greenhouse emissions - that we have to work towards creating a cleaner, healthier environment and in tandem with this manage the transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy; create green jobs; facilitate access to land, water agriculture and food security
NUMSA’s critique of the Green Paper: 1. 2. the environmental debate has moved beyond the boundaries of conservation. If we open our “ecological lens” as Jacklyn Cock said, then we will find that the Green Paper lacks the form of ideological and political content that the General Secretary of NUMSA once referred to when he addressed a climate change conference under theme “Cutting Emissions, Transforming Jobs” in Bad Orb, Germany (14 -15 October 2009). In his address to delegates Comrade Jim argued that global capitalism and climate change are closely linked: We are convinced that any efforts to address the problems of Climate Change that do not fundamentally challenge the system of global capitalism are bound not only to fail, but to generate new, larger and more dangerous threats to human beings and our planet. … We believe that Climate Change has a direct link with, and is caused by the global private profit system of capitalism. (Jim, 2009: 2)
3. 4. Over reliance on the “market” to moderate the adverse effects of high levels of carbon emissions and global warming. As northern governments (including the USA and EU) continue with their relentless campaign of finding market related solutions to ward off the threat posed by global warming, progressive environmentalists have sounded a warning against so called ‘green capitalism’. Nuclear Energy: NUMSA notes that the Green Paper calls for the countrty to “explore and further develop the potential for nuclear energy in terms of the national Nuclear Energy Policy” (Green Paper 2010: 14) The Union has some serious reservations about the use of nuclear energy and believes that there has be more engagement on the matter. At NUMSA’s Mini National Congress in May 2009, and thereafter at COSATU’s 10 th National Congress in September 2009, both the union and the federation expressed the need for greater trade union involvement and visibility on matters related to climate change and the protection of our natural environment. In line with its resolution on energy matters NUMSA believes that it is imperative for the union to make informed decisions on “international carbon-trading, global warming, nuclear energy and the use of alternate energy resources such as solar, wind and wave powered energy”. (NUMSA Mini National Congress, 11 -14 May 2009, p 75 -76)
5. Sustainable Development versus Environmental Justice As NUMSA we believe that not only is a new global energy system in the making but that such a system is a necessity. All evidence is pointing to the fact that the capitalist system (as we know it) has reached a cul-de-sac. Not only is capitalism experiencing its most serious crisis since the 1930 s, but signs are there to show catastrophic it would be to continue along the path in which fossil fuels (such as coal, oil and natural gas) remain engines of economic development. For Cock (2008) there are two powerful approaches that can be utilised towards the creation of a new energy order: sustainable development and environmental justice. To simply focus on sustainable development (as the Green Paper has done) without some perpective on redefining relations between humans and nature, can be misleading. Besides any approach that sidelines environmental justice could unleash a number of negative consequences and impede our social and economic development.
As Gina (2010: 3) argued the emergence of a new global energy system is not only a technical matter but involves struggle “for who controls the sector and for what purpose energy is used. ” Therefore it is important to explore ideas about how production, distribution and consumption of energy “can come under some form of collective control in order to satisfy human and ecological needs rather the needs of the profit-driven world market” (Gina, 2010: 3) It is on this isssue of “collective control” that many environmentalists have faltered. They thought that they could ultimately solve the problem of environmental degradation within the market system. Although we believe on the need to fight for improvements within the system of capitalism, as a union we believe that to save us from the catastrophe facing us we have to bring production, distribution and consumption of energy under “some form of collective control” rather than “the profit-driven world market” (Gina, 2010: 3)
6. Water/Agriculture/Human Health Access to Basic Services is one thing! Affordability another! Climate change adaptation strategies on their own will not solve our food problems - For the Green Paper to make any significant impact on how best we can protect and sustain our natural resources such as water, and for the best possible means to safeguard our food supply and agriculture, a whole range of issues other than just climate change, will have to be addressed. These include: - addressing the land question (land reform, redistribution, restitution and expropriation) - agrarian reform - rural development - affordable and accessible health care for all
7. On the Green Economy and Green jobs Several references have been made in the Green Paper to a shift to a green economy and the creation of green jobs to complement the transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. As NUMSA we recognise that this transition isn’t going to be easy and requires inputs from a number of interest parties, civil society in general and labour in particular. The role of the state is central in this transition and requires an ecological focus on all forms of economic activity. Huge investments in renewable energy, technology and skills cannot be left in the hands of the private sector and there are huge opportunities for the state to make meaningful interventions to reduce our carbon footprint and boost our manufacturing potential (green jobs), transform the transport sector and initiate strategies that will enhance and protect our food supply.
8. On Climate Change and its impact on International Trade The Green Paper needs to say more on climate change and its impact on international trade. The use of trade instruments like Non. Tariff Barriers (NTB’s), including Eco-protectionism will impact on trade between the north and south and could be effectively used by developed countries to protect their markets. Unless developing countries are able to keep pace with technological developments that are ecologically friendly (technological and skills transfer) and sharpen their negotiation skills at the level of the WTO and associated forums that promote international trade, our economies will still be subordinate to those of developed, highly industrialised countries and instruments like Eco-Protectionism could prejudice our trade and development interests.
Conclusion The South African government must: • • • strengthen our capacity and increase investments in friendly and renewable sources of energy like solar, water and wind powered energy lessen our dependency on coal encourage and promote more public debate on issues related to climate change and global warming and popularize these debates on national television, the radio and through the use of print media In conclusion NUMSA calls on government to initiate a process with all stakeholders (social movements, trade unions and NGO’s, etc. ) and relevant government departments to develop policies on climate change that are mutually compatible and consistent with the developmental goals of our country, sustainable and above all capable of protecting the earth and its resources from pillaging corporations and ruthless investors.
References 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Cock, J (2008) The War Against Ourselves – Nature, Power and Justice. Johannesburg, Wits University Press Jim, I 2009 ‘Global Capitalism and the Challenge of Climate Change’, paper presented at the “Cutting Emissions, Transforming Jobs” Climate Change Conference, Bad Orb, Germany 14 -15 October 2009 http: //www. imfmetal. org/files/09102010321266/Session_one_Irvin_Jim. p df Gina, C S (2010) ‘Experiences from the South’, paper presented at an International Seminar on Energy, Work, Crisis and Resistance, 22 -24 January 2010, Graz, Austria NUMSA Mini National Congress, 11 -14 May 2009, p 75 -76 Republic of South Africa (2010) National Climate Change Response Green Paper