Press Release: Earthlife Africa Jhb prepares for one of the largest climate marches in Africa
November 26, 2015
Press Release: Largest climate march in Africa to take place in Johannesburg
November 27, 2015

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Press Release: Johannesburg’s Kelvin Power Station casts a shadow over Africities Summit


Ela Jhb anti coal Billboard on R 24

Johannesburg, 27th November 2015- From the 29th of November to the 3rd of December 2015 representatives from local governments around Africa will meet in Johannesburg for the Africities Summit 2015. The summit is held every three years, by United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), with the purpose of evaluating the implementation of decentralization policies in Africa. The summit further aims to bring the vision of the African Union: “Agenda 2063 – Towards an Africa we want” to a reality.

“Agenda 2063- Towards the Africa we want” promotes, amongst other aspirations, that: African people reach a high standard of living, quality of life, sound health and well-being; and that African cities and other settlements become hubs of cultural and economic activities, with modernized infrastructure, where people have access to all the basic necessities of life including shelter, water, sanitation, energy, public transport and ICT. These are aspirations which the summit wishes to see unfold by the year 2063.

But, on the way to and from the summit… our international visitors will have the opportunity to see local infrastructure in the host city that is a serious impediment to achieving the goals of Agenda 2063. Kelvin coal-fired power station in Kempton Park in Johannesburg is one of around 19 coal-fired power stations currently operating in South Africa. But, it is the only coal-fired power station operating in the centre of a dense urban area. Kelvin power station is largely responsible for unprecedented levels of air pollution in Johannesburg. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study released last year, Johannesburg has ambient air quality worse than priority areas of Witbank and the Vaal, and worse than other polluted mega cities in China and in India. The same study reveals that Johannesburg is the dirtiest city in South Africa; followed by Pretoria, Cape Town and lastly Durban {1}.

Senior Programmes Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Makoma Lekalakala, warns: “Not only is Kelvin power station jeopardising the Constitutional right of Johannesburg’s citizens to an environment which is not harmful to their well-being, but it is also impeding the ability of Johannesburg to grow into a vibrant, healthy, inclusive and modern city. As long as Johannesburg, like other African cities, continue to burn coal instead of rolling out decentralized alternative energy, the aspirations of Agenda 2063 cannot be realized. Coal is the energy choice of the past, not the future”.

Coal- fired power stations, like Kelvin in the centre of Johannesburg, are not only the major cause behind climate change; but also lead to acid rain and smog. Besides carbon dioxide, coal-fired power stations also emit 60 other kinds of air pollutants including toxic metals, organic compounds, mercury, acid gases, sulphur, nitrogen and particulate matter. The true impacts of coal-fired power stations on human health have yet to be revealed but evidence today shows that they lead to chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, lung cancers, stroke and obstructive pulmonary disease. These diseases are preventable and currently overburden the already strained South African public health system.

In an effort to promote public awareness about the human health impacts of coal- fired power stations, amongst the Johannesburg and international visitors, environmental justice organisation Earthlife Africa Johannesburg has launched a high profile anti-coal billboard on the R 24 highway in Johannesburg. The billboard, in full view of the Kelvin Power Station, and visible on route to Oliver Thambo International Airport from Johannesburg, is an attempt to educate the public that coal-fired power stations are dangerous environmental hazards, as well as unreliable sources of electricity.

The billboard depicts a young child covering his mouth to protect himself from the black smog bellowing out of the coal-fired power station behind him. It reads: “You shouldn’t have to hold your breath for electricity”. Energy Policy Officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, Dominique Doyle, explains: “Not only are coal-fired power stations deadly, causing an estimated 2700 premature deaths every year in South Africa {2); but they are also unreliable. Coal- fired power stations are only 37% efficient, meaning that 63% of the total available energy in coal is wasted during the combustion process”. “It is high time that cities, like Johannesburg, transition towards greener and more affordable renewable energies for the sake of the health of its citizens”. The transition to the green economy should be the most critical item on the agenda of the Africities Summit.

  1. World Health Organisation (2014). Ambient (outdoor) air pollution in cities database. Available online at:
  2. McDaid (2014). The Health Impact of Coal. The responsibility that coal-fired power stations bear for ambient air quality associated health impacts. Available online at:


For more information, please contact:

Makoma Lekalakala

Senior Programme Officer

Tel: +27 11 339 3662

Cell: +27 82 682 9177




Tshepo Tsipa

International Coal Network Assistant

Earthlife Africa Jhb

Tell: +27 11 339 3662


Press Release: Earthlife Africa Jhb prepares for one of the largest climate marches in Africa
November 26, 2015
Press Release: Largest climate march in Africa to take place in Johannesburg
November 27, 2015

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