Project 90 by 2030 was conceived 16 years ago at a time in South Africa when the effects of climate change were first becoming evident. At the inception, the group’s founders decided it was time to tackle the climate change problems facing our country head-on. Project 90 by 2030 is a social and environmental justice organisation inspiring and mobilising society towards a sustainably developed and equitable low-carbon future by means of a just energy transition. The name is premised on George Monbiot’s book Heat, in which he calls for a 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 if we are to avoid “catastrophic effects on both humans and ecosystems”. The organisation’s ambition is to change how South Africans engage with the government and stakeholders to address climate change, energy poverty and social injustice, in order to realise a sustainably developed and equitable low-carbon future by 2030. It does this by educating and empowering communities and the youth. One of its biggest achievements is installing 16 renewable energy demo sites over five years to raise awareness and make renewable energy real. Accessible and affordable electricity, which millions in South Africa lack, is a need and a crucial building block for a just energy transition in South Africa. Project 90 by 2030 is pushing for the government to establish a national energy policy which will ensure this is provided. It works with stakeholders and decision-makers to identify policies and actions that support climate justice, with a focus on developing environmental leadership in our youth, mentoring young climate leaders and encouraging people to challenge the government on environmental issues.
What’s been your/the organisation’s greatest achievement in your field?
For 16 years, we’ve focused on empowering communities and youth for a low-carbon future. A highlight is our work installing 16 renewable energy demo sites over five years. These sites boost awareness and visibility, making renewable energy tangible. Our Playing With Solar project further engages participants, combining climate change info with the hands-on assembly of small solar lights. The programme sparks intersectional climate conversations, focusing on food, water and energy.
Please provide specific examples of how your/your organisation’s practices and work have a positive effect on the environment
We work with stakeholders and decision-makers to identify policies and actions that support climate justice, with a specific focus on developing environmental leadership in our youth and increasing people’s ability to engage the government — through active public participation — to address climate change, energy poverty and the social injustices that intersect in their communities.
Through our work, we not only cultivate a generation of informed citizens, but a generation and community of active individuals. Our work has inspired and mobilised many to further the knowledge-building and awareness of climate change and its interconnectedness in their communities. It has also seen the supported development and incubation of prominent young climate leaders in South Africa’s civil society. These leaders play an active role, not only in advocacy spaces, but also in inspiring the next generation of engaged changemakers.
What are some of the biggest environmental challenges faced by South Africans today?
Different regions of South Africa have different problems — droughts, wildfires and floods affect coastal and inland provinces, whereas provinces on the highveld which have mining activity suffer more from air pollution and contaminated water. The environmental problems that we face are strongly linked to the increasing impacts of climate change, exacerbated by the damage done by multinational corporations and the inaction of our government, leaving millions of South Africans in under-resourced and under-represented communities to fend for themselves.
Our theme this year is Celebrating Environment Heroes. What do you believe could be the repercussions for millions of people in South Africa and the continent if we do not tackle problems exacerbated by climate change, encompassing issues like drought, floods, fires, extreme heat, biodiversity loss, and pollution of air and water?
We believe that if we don’t collectively put an end to the human-made impacts of climate change through the extraction and exploitation of fossil fuels, and the destruction of biodiversity, we will see the socio-economic issues that millions of South Africans face on a daily basis get worse.
The increase in droughts, fires and floods will not only see the health of communities impacted but will push up the price of food. With the further pollution of our air and water sources, drinkable water will become scarce. It will also affect broader physical, mental and emotional well-being.
We cannot afford to get to that point. As active citizens, we can help change our direction as a country. We are at a tipping point when it comes to climate change but this doesn’t have to be a bad thing — tipping could be us falling into a future where people and the planet are safeguarded. We at Project 90 by 2030 believe this future is still possible.