Greenpeace opens SA office

14 November 2008

International environmental conservation organisation Greenpeace has opened its first South African office in Johannesburg, announcing a long-term commitment to building a strong presence in Africa, dedicated to tackling urgent environmental problems facing the continent including climate change, deforestation and overfishing.

The launch comes just weeks ahead of the United Nations climate change talks in Poznan, Poland from 1-13 December, where agreements will be made to set the world on a path to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prevent human induced climate change.

Africa ‘hardest hit’

While Africa contributes very little to global warming, the region will be one of the hardest hit by its effects. Over 180-million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die as a result of climate change by the end of the century.

Unpredictable rainfall, lower crop yields and dwindling resources are causing mass migration, increased tension and conflict, Greenpeace says.

“South Africa needs to take a strong stand at the UN climate talks for a deal that includes substantial funding from the industrialised world for developing countries to adapt to and mitigate the devastating effects of climate change,” said Greenpeace Africa executive director Amadou Kanoute.

“The South African government should also support central African countries by backing moves to create a funding mechanism that makes protecting tropical forests and the climate more economical than logging.”

Tropical forest destruction accounts for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

South Africa: carbon emitter

According to Greenpeace, South Africa is the 14th highest carbon emitter in the world, and must commit to measurable actions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, including ending its dependence on coal, without resorting to expansions in nuclear power.

The country, as with Africa as a whole, is in a position to harness abundant renewable energy sources – solar, wind and biomass – and take a lead in an African energy revolution.

An energy revolution would not only help reduce climate change, says Greenpeace, but would bring electricity to rural areas, which is crucial for rural development, providing jobs and economic growth.

“While the environmental threats facing Africans are urgent and critical, Africa is in a position to leapfrog dirty development and become a leader in helping to avert catastrophic climate change and protect the natural environment,” said Kanoute. “We are here to help make that happen.”

Illegal logging, trawling

Greenpeace also plans on opening an office in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, on 24 November, while a third office will be opened in Dakar, Senegal in 2009.

The DRC office will focus on industrial logging, which threatens the Congo Basin rainforest and some 40-million people who are depend on it for their livelihoods.

It plays a vital role in regulating the global climate and is the fourth largest forest carbon reservoir in the world. Yet if logging is allowed to continue at the projected rate, the DRC risks losing 40% of its forest within 40 years.

Meanwhile, off the coast of West Africa, Greenpeace says marine life is being carried away by foreign trawlers, devastating local communities and depriving them of critical nutrition, causing poverty and food insecurity to increase.

Greenpeace International executive director Gerd Leipold said that tackling environmental problems in Africa was vital for ensuring a future for both its children and the world as a whole.

“While it is most likely to be one of the hardest and quickest hit by the effects of climate change, some of which can already be seen, Africa is also a major part of the solution,” he said. “Through harnessing its renewable energy potential and protecing its tropical forests Africa can lead the way in environmental development.”

SAinfo reporter

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