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 NDCs to reduce emissions. Global emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 and net zero by 2050. Steeper reductions are needed to increase our odds. The combination of all the NDCs submitted in 2015, however, added up to global warming of 4°C or more. The second round of NDCs seems highly unlikely to keep us 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 and increasing climate change impacts, leaving us in a climate crisis.

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. SA needs to take urgent action now by clearly defining what they are going to do to phase out fossil fuels, by when 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 ensure 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 come from here 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.