Climate debt news
Energy access and the complicated path to climate justice
Alongside the UN climate talks that took place earlier this month, Durban’s KZN university hosted a ‘people’s space’: an alternative space where people could come together to talk about the struggle for climate justice. Bringing together activists from across the world, the space saw some fascinating exchanges, where people shared what climate justice means in the context of their own lives, and the complicated web of systemic issues that need to be tackled on the pathway for climate justice.
Whilst the mantra for many concerned citizens in the UK is to reduce energy consumption, a key demand for activists is for their right to energy access to
be met. This was one of the key issues under discussion at the people's space.
In South Africa, and across the continent, energy access is a
vital part of the struggle for climate justice. The statistics remain shocking: in Durban, nearly three-quarters of the population have no access to energy. In rural Africa, that figure is a phenomenal ninety-four percent of people who have no access to the energy they need to drill for water, power hospitals, and cook food. Yet, in a twisted misfortune of geography, Africa is warming faster than the rest of the planet, and its people are already experiencing more crop failures, droughts and disease because of a changing climate. It is a stark reminder of the injustice of climate change.
And yet, when the World Bank gave a loan to South African state power company
Eskom to build a coal fired power station, the energy produced went to the national industry; all the local people will get from it, is the polluted water from mining the coal, the heath impacts of burning it, and the catastrophic climate change it will bring. Even the money that has been raided from the UK’s aid budget for climate finance to enable countries to transition to clean forms of energy production has mainly gone to projects where the energy created goes exclusively to industry – such as the Oaxaca project mentioned in our ‘power to the people’ report, where 100 per cent of the energy produced goes to Wal-Mart instead of bringing much needed energy to peoples' homes.
And now, the supposed ‘Green Climate Fund’, that was anticipated as being one of the key the outcomes of the Durban climate talks, is destined to include a ‘private sector facility’. This essentially means that corporations will be able to access the money, again meaning the energy produced is likely to bypass the people. This will not bring energy justice, and it is certainly not going to bring about climate justice.
Instead, campaigners in the south are pushing for energy soverenity – for decentralised and locally appropriate forms of energy production that enable people to have control over their own lives.
Kirsty is senior campaigns officer at WDM. She campaigns to keep the World Bank out of climate finance and against loans for climate change.