A WORD FROM THE CEO

Yolan Friedmann, EWT CEO

yolanf@ewt.org.za

As we race towards the end of another year, we embrace both good and some concerning news. On the fantastic front, we celebrate the recent Constitutional Court ruling to uphold the High Court judgement to prevent Uthaka from conducting any mining activities at its proposed Yzermyn coal mine near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga. This is a critical step in a very long road to save this Strategic Water Resource area, Mabola Protected Environment, from the devastating impacts of coal mining, which is being undertaken by a Coalition of Civil Society NGOs (the Mining and Environmental Justice Communities Network of South Africa, groundWork, Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, BirdLife South Africa, the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the Federation for a Sustainable Environment, the Association for Water and Rural Development and the Bench Marks Foundation) and represented by the Centre for Environmental Rights.

At present, there are six High Court challenges to the proposed mine, as we strive to save this Strategic Water Source Area, one of only 22 areas where more than 50% of South Africa’s freshwater originates, and this critical judgement takes us one step closer to ensuring environmental governance and justice prevail in South Africa.

Equally positive, we welcomed the announcement last week of the investment of $8.5 billion from America and European countries into South Africa to assist in our transition away from coal to a clean energy economy.  The funds take the form of grants and loans to divest from a coal-intensive economy to alternative renewable energy sources and, in the process, create thousands of new jobs. However, we are alarmed by the announcement by the South African government only days later that South Africa will NOT sign a pledge signed by 40 nations and institutions to end coal financing by the 2030s for major economies and the 2040s for poorer nations. This, despite President Ramaphosa stating that South Africa would in fact support a just transition to a low carbon economy and a climate-resilient society, as he welcomed the global investment commitment. Without signing this pledge, we cannot see how the Paris Agreement targets will be met and how South Africa has any chance of losing our position at the top of the world’s worst emitter list.

On the back of a week of rolling blackouts across the country with a crushing impact on our already fragile economy, it takes very little convincing that investment into alternative energy production methods is both critical and logical for our economic growth as well as climate stability. With the COP finishing on 12 November, as I write this, we have very little time left to ensure genuine commitment to the right policies and processes in order to drive enough change to stabilise our climate and save our future. It is incredibly frustrating and worrying that life-saving decisions are left to governments to make, with the reasons for their stance often being unknown to those who will suffer the outcomes. This is why the wins made by civil society and the sensible judgements made by our justice system are welcome gains in what is literally a fight for life on earth.

With the holidays approaching, we welcome with open arms the influx of tourists and holidaymakers to our country who will inject much needed financial flows into the collapsing veins of the tourism sector and hopefully signal a return to life for one of our most important economic sectors. If you find yourself in the Waterberg region, we invite you to go and see the world’s first dedicated Wild Dog holding facility; if you are in the Western Cape or KwaZulu-Natal, try out a frogging excursion to see some highly unique, endemic species of frogs found nowhere else in the world. In the Lowveld, you can experience carnivore conservation close-ups with our team of experts who are working to save lions, Cheetah and Wild Dogs; and if you have a passion for vultures and birds of prey, why not spend a day with our team of raptor experts who can give you a nature-based experience of a lifetime. Contact the EWT via our website or Facebook to book a holiday with a difference, achieve a bucket-list goal and contribute to critical conservation work.

The role of NGOs such as the EWT is essential if life on earth is to remain vibrant, diverse, and viable. But we need you to keep standing with us, fighting the good fight and speaking up for those who can’t. As another year draws to an end, we thank you for the role you play in keeping us strong and sticking with us through the toughest of years. Whatever you do, and wherever you go this holiday season, be safe, take care, tread lightly, and make your impact count.

See you in 2022.