South African youth demand climate justice

From the 13th to the 17th of June, a wave of youth-led actions took place across South Africa in commemoration of Youth Day.  United under the banner of #YouthDemandClimateJustice, young South Africans called on our government to take decisive action on climate change.

African Climate Reality Project stood in solidarity with the Gauteng youth at the Union Buildings

Over a dozen events took place in Pretoria, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, New Castle, Middleburg, Wesselton, Bisho and other parts of the country. In drought-stricken Eastern Cape, youth, farmers, and rural communities marched to the office of the premier; in flood-devastated Kwa-Zulu Natal, the South African Youth Climate Change coalition marched to the KZN Legislature; and in Gauteng, youth gathered at the Union Buildings to deliver a memorandum to the Presidency of South Africa – with everyone demanding the same thing: climate justice.

Over the last few months, millions of young people around the world have been leaving school and taking to the streets to demand world leaders recognise and act on the climate crisis and just transition to renewable energy.

The world’s leading scientific bodies have warned that if we don’t take action today, we will be locked into a devastating future which could wipe out much progress on development and leave behind an impoverished world for our youth to inherit.

South Africa is heavily coal-dependent, the biggest carbon polluter on the continent, and the 14th largest in the world. While some progress has been made, for example the recent signing into law of the Carbon Tax Act, it is simply not enough to meet South Africa’s commitments to the global climate change agreement negotiated in Paris in 2015.

Climate change is not a distant threat – the countdown to Day Zero in Cape Town two years ago, ongoing drought in the Eastern Cape, and the recent floods in KZN are all stark reminders of the future we are facing, should our country’s leaders not take the actions required to halt the inevitable consequences of climate change.

At the action at the Union Buildings, the youngest climate striker of the day handed over a climate justice memorandum to a representative of the Presidency of South Africa, signed by several organisations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the youth climate action that took place at the Union Buildings in his State of Nation Address, however has fallen short of declaring a climate emergency. At the Gauteng action, the youth handed over a climate justice memorandum, which was signed in solidarity by African Climate Reality Project,, the Co-operative and Policy Alternative Center (COPAC), Earth Protectors, and Extinction Rebellion South Africa. Read the full memorandum here.