Will the host city for the November-December world climate summit, COP17, clean up its act? The August 23 launch of a major Academy of Science of South Africa (Assaf) report, Towards a Low Carbon City: Focus on Durban – offers an early chance to test whether new municipal leaders are climate greenwashers, attempting to disguise high-carbon economic policies with pleasing rhetoric, as did their predecessors.
Will Durban Mayor James Nxumalo and a new city manager, still to be named, instead get serious about the threat we face – and that major industries pose – as a result of runaway greenhouse gas emissions? We needn’t rehearse concerns about future rising sea levels, extreme storms, flooding that will overwhelm dirty Durban’s decrepit storm-water drainage system, landslides on our hilly terrain, droughts that draw new “climate refugees” from the region into a xenophobic populace, the disruption of food chains and other coming disasters.
However, what might be termed South Africa’s “mitigation denialism” remains a notable problem. Not only did planning minister Trevor Manuel announce last week that he expects the global North to pay South Africa up to $2 billion a year through the Green Climate Fund he co-chairs – when in reality it is South Africa that owes a vast climate debt to Africa given our world-leading rate of CO2/GDP/person – but Assaf seeks to persuade politicians that Durban can “entrench its reputation as SA’s leading city in terms of climate change actions”