Combating Climate Change: Southern African Youth should be at the forefront in spearheading sustainable development programmes

Mon, 2011-12-12 14:07
Submitted by motho

By Qhuba Dlamini

South Africa is one of the unequal countries of the world and yet it is a middle income country. The United Nation Development Programme’s (UNDP) Report of 2011 notes that , even though there is “human development progress of recent years, income distribution has worsened, grave gender imbalances still persist, and accelerating environmental destruction puts a ‘double burden of deprivation’ on the poorest households and communities.”The report continues to allude to the fact that “half of all malnutrition worldwide is attributable to environmental factors, such as water pollution and drought-driven scarcity, perpetuating a vicious cycle of impoverishment and ecological damage”.

The report is in line with our policy in South Africa in terms of the commitments made by government as environmental rights in South Africa are constitutionalised, necessitating our parliament to pass laws and regulations that are geared towards environmental justice.
In terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996, in section 24 under Chapter 2 it provides that:

“Everyone has a right
a. to an environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations,
through reasonable legislative and other measures that:
i. prevent pollution and ecological degradation;
ii. promote conservation; and
iii. secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development. “ (my emphasis)

Since the constitution is the supreme law of the land, any law, regulation or conduct that will violate section 24 will thus be unconstitutional. The statement from the UNDP Report is most welcome because it is in line with the sentiments expressed in our constitution. In addition to environmental rights being recognised in our Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which was adopted in 1981 also makes a provision for these rights, albeit not in detail .

From the reading of section 24 of the Constitution it appears that it was informed by the Stockholm Declaration of 1972 which proclaims that “local and National governments will bear the greatest burden for large scale environmental policy and action within their jurisdiction” . International cooperation is also needed in order to raise resources to support the developing countries in carrying out their responsibilities in this field.

The world has come a long way since the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the international community should push for more stringent action against countries and people that contribute to climate change. In this paper I will focus my contentions on the sustainable development that should include youth participation in environment. In an article I wrote before the fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP 15) in Denmark in 2009, I said that “Africa should engage developed countries, together with Civil Society (meaning the youth) around the world, with a view to finding ways of minimising carbon emissions and other causes that have an adverse effect on our atmosphere.”

The youth should be at the epicentre of these sustainability projects because the young is renowned for their passion on issues pertaining environment.

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