25 November 2011
In the inky blackness of night, the Climate Train chugged out of Nasrec Train Station in Johannesburg on the final leg of its journey to Durban, where the 17th United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP 17) is being hosted.
The train is carrying scores of representatives from all over Africa, as well as from countries in Europe such as Norway, who will participate in COP 17. The UN meeting is aimed at finding sustainable solutions to climate change and forging international agreements on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Gauteng department of agriculture and rural development teamed up with the environmental agency, Indalo Yethu; the German Embassy; the British Council; and the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa to send the train off on 22 November.
Gauteng’s agriculture and rural development MEC, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza, said she was excited about the concept of the Climate Train. “The Climate Train raises awareness and educates about mitigating climate change.
“It ensures that the people of South Africa are taking the matter seriously and it also ensures participation about ways we can adapt to and mitigate climate change,” she said.
To lead by example, between 70 and 100 trees have been planted in every town where the train has stopped along its journey.
Climate change is everyone’s business
To show that Gauteng as a whole is dedicated to playing its part, Mayathula-Khoza spoke of projects that had been undertaken at provincial level. The Climate Change Response Strategy was developed through intensive consultation with stakeholders all around Gauteng to act as a long-term contribution to the environment.
A Green Economic Programme had also been finalised to guide development in the province, as had an air quality management plan and an integrated energy strategy. The need for state of the environment reports had also been recognised.
“There is plenty of political will and action in Gauteng,” she said. “Climate change is everyone’s business, and we urgently need to further promote public education and awareness on climate change.”
Gauteng was particularly vulnerable to its effects as it was the economic hub of the country, she explained. It was therefore particularly important to find ways of easing the negative effects of global warming.
A number of strategies had been proposed and undertaken in the past year, including building air quality stations, monitoring energy consumption religiously, commissioning routine energy audits, implementing waste management campaigns and retrofitting buildings, among others.
Clean and green education campaign
For instance, the Clean and Green Campaign educated people about how best to manage waste, with particular focus on not burning it as this contributed to the release of greenhouse gases.
Activities such as planting trees, conserving water, saving electricity and using cleaner energy such as biogas were also widely encouraged. “Climate change is a multi-disciplinary and cross-cutting issue, so it is important to attain buy-in from all stakeholders.
“There are plans of action for all of us so we can all make a meaningful contribution to climate change,” she concluded.
June Josephs-Langa, the chief executive officer of Indalo Yethu, picked up on the theme of including everyone in the conversation and defining the roles that every single person could play. “Climate change is steeped in scientific language but it is definitely not only an issue for scientists,” she said.
“Often people don’t participate in the conversation because they feel intimidated by the size of it.”
Facilitating national conversation
There was no need for this to be the case, though, and this was where the Climate Train had been so useful. It had facilitated national conversation; the train left from Cape Town and had stopped in 17 of South Africa’s cities so far.
In addition to the train, there was also a climate caravan, which began its journey in Nairobi, in Kenya. The two forms of transport had enabled everyone to get involved in the conversation and had encouraged engagement with women, youth, religious leaders and civil society leaders.
“The road begins with COP 17,” she added, “but doesn’t end there. I want to ask those on the Climate Train to take the messages of the communities they have engaged with to the negotiations in Durban and demand better for Africa.”
Source: City of Johannesburg