Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Ramaphosa misses chance to create a better climate future

Our history teaches us that humanity seizes on hope in moments of catastrophe. It’s at the core of so many of our narratives — think about the guy who got nailed to a cross two millennia ago and sowed the seeds for a religion.

Covid-19 is catastrophic. But, on Tuesday, President Cyril Ramaphosa framed it as a chance to “reimagine” South Africa. His R500-billion “extraordinary coronavirus budget” would be a chance to turn around the world’s most unequal country.

More social grants will mean people don’t starve to death. Loans for businesses and tax breaks will mean less of a jobs bloodbath. And R20-billion for healthcare will mean a long-neglected and largely crippled hospital system might survive the tsunami of Covid-19 cases that the government says are likely.

All of this represents a big step for the government. But Ramaphosa missed the chance to get even more out of this moment.

In 2008, when American financial corruption smashed the world economy, there was such hope that bailouts would come with conditions where corporations polluted less, emitted less carbon and did more for people.

That didn’t come to pass. Politicians were not brave enough to change the status quo. Their reluctance was reinforced by voters, who, globally, ranked climate as something not to be taken seriously at the ballot box.

This has changed, dramatically so.

Voters consistently rate climate as a serious concern that they want elected officials to tackle. Corporations and investors have, in the past two years, sprinted away from fossil fuel investments. At the start of this year, before Covid-19 took over all narratives, it was the uncontrollable wildfires in Australia that had our attention. In South Africa, it has been a succession of droughts, violent storms and floods.

Where for a while the world swung to the right, voters have started to once again vote based on social justice and environmental concerns. In the United States it has meant a slightly left of centre proposal for a “Green New Deal” gaining traction. In China it has meant, according to a poll out this week, that nearly 80% of corporations are focusing on developing along an environmentally-sound path. In Europe, it means that continent’s Covid-19 stimulus package will probably be rooted in getting to zero carbon emissions by 2050.

These are countries seizing their moment.

Climate change is the greatest long-term threat that any country faces this century (alongside nuclear annihilation). The countries that prepare now, by lowering carbon emissions and helping people adapt to extreme events such as wildfires, drought and flooding, will have a better future. And a big competitive advantage.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Sipho Kings
Sipho Kings is the acting editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Cabinet reshuffle not on cards yet

There are calls for the president to act against ministers said to be responsible for the state’s slow response to the unrest, but his hands are tied

Rwanda’s involvement in Ramaphosa phone surveillance will further strain relations

But experts doubt the South African intelligence community has the capacity even to establish whether Ramaphosa’s phone was compromised

More top stories

IEC to ask the courts to postpone local elections

The chairperson of the Electoral Commission of South Africa said the Moseneke inquiry found that the elections would not be free and fair if held in October

Daily new Covid-19 cases drop, but recent civil unrest might...

Acting health minister Mmamoloko Kubayi says 120 private pharmacies were destroyed and 47 500 vaccines lost in KwaZulu-Natal

Western Cape closes roads to end deadly taxi violence

The closure of the Mbekweni/Paarl and Bellville route comes as negotiations between taxi operators fail and will affect thousands of commuters

Cabinet reshuffle not on cards yet

There are calls for the president to act against ministers said to be responsible for the state’s slow response to the unrest, but his hands are tied
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×