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Environmental and climate justice groups reject SA government gas procurement plans

Proposals by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe to the National Energy Regulator for additional gas procurement have been objected to by environmental and climate justice groups who cite safety and environmental concerns — as well as a lack of detail.
A collective of environmental and climate justice groups made submissions to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), rejecting the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE’s) gas procurement plans.
Rejecting the proposal are groundWork, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Natural Justice, and the Centre for Environmental Rights. The collective says the proposed plan is vague, unnecessary and threatens the constitutional rights of South Africans. The objections are supported by Earthlife Africa, The Green Connection,, Oceans Not Oil and Project 90 by 2030.
The plan is in addition to the proposed 3,000MW laid out in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019). The IRP sets out a plan to procure 1,000MW in 2023 and 2,000MW in 2027, while taking into account the environment, port issues and transmission. The plan adds that the additional energy “represents low gas utilisation, which will not likely justify the development of new gas infrastructure and power plants.”
Organisations became aware of the plan after Nersa announced public participation on 26 August for three determinations under section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act 2006, which DMRE Minister Gwede Mantashe had proposed. Section 34 determinations set the guidelines and regulations for the procurement process of energy.
The three determinations proposed by Mantashe include 14,791MW of renewable energy for storage, solar and wind from 2024 to 2030; 1,000MW of biomass for 2023 and 2024, as well as 3,000MW of gas/diesel for 2024 to 2027; the last being the determination organisations are disputing.
Public consultation
In a statement, the coalition argued that the proposal for gas procurement lacks adequate public consultation, lacks key information and is not informed by electricity needs and least-cost planning or crucial impact assessments.
The coalition said the plan was vague and in conflict with the law and Constitution because of unjustifiable harm posed by new gas development, lack of alignment with the Electricity Regulation Act of 2006, and lack of specifications for Eskom’s authorised (and disputed) gas-fired power station in Richards Bay.
“Energy modelling shows that renewables are the quickest and cheapest way to get much-needed capacity on to the grid. By committing to harmful and expensive gas, government is displacing this much-needed renewable capacity and the most practical solution ...

FROM OUR ARCHIVES: The long and short of load shedding solutions – time to call disaster and harness the power of wind and solar energy

The huge cost of load shedding could have disastrous economic consequences and cause civil unrest that makes July 2021 pale into insignificance. If the problem is tackled realistically, purposefully and urgently with a coordinated emergency plan partnering Eskom and civil society, it is technically and financially possible to end load shedding within 24 months.
As South Africa once again plunges into stage 4 load shedding in the wake of sabotage and more unexpected breakdowns of our aging power stations, the Centre for Sustainability Transitions at Stellenbosch University and the Blended Finance Taskforce have launched a breakthrough report entitled Making Climate Capital Work: Unlocking $8.5bn for South Africa’s Just Energy Transition.
Speaking at the launch of the report at a side event during the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Catherine Koffman, group executive, project preparation at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, said: “It is difficult to conceive of a path to 2050 that doesn’t account for people – we must not only talk about the energy transition, but about transitioning the whole economy including sectors and jobs currently linked to the coal value chain.”
We urgently need to adopt short- and long-term solutions, to the energy crisis in general and ever-more-serious load shedding in particular. The one without the other will plunge South Africa into an even deeper crisis, with disastrous economic consequences that will ultimately translate into mass protests that will make the July 2021 insurrection look like a picnic.
Pretoria family racket allegedly fleeced state using Sassa pensioners as front for dodgy police service providers
Collapse of the grid would cause greater economic mayhem than the pandemic did in 2020 and 2021
In the short term, there is no doubt that conditions are now so serious that it is appropriate to support the call for some sort of equivalent to a declaration of a national disaster for the energy crisis. It is arguable that the consequences of further load shedding – that could eventually lead to a total collapse of the grid – would do far greater damage to the South African economy and society than the pandemic did in 2020 and 2021. If the pandemic justified the declaration of a national disaster, why not the threat of a deepening energy crisis? After all, experts have worked out that stage 4 load shedding costs the South African economy nearly R1-billion per day. This is clearly a crisis that cannot ...

Hot and angry – new study finds global heating can fuel online hate speech

A new study has found that temperatures above or below a certain threshold can be linked to a ‘marked rise’ in online hate speech in the US. It is the most recent example of the often underestimated and misunderstood psychosocial and physiological impacts of climate change.
A new study published in The Lancet Planetary Health has found that temperatures above or below a “feel-good window” of 12°C to 21°C are linked to a “marked rise” in aggressive online behaviour across the US.
The study, Temperature impacts on hate speech online: evidence from 4 billion geolocated tweets from the USA, adds yet another dimension to the lesser understood and underestimated psychosocial and physiological impacts of climate change.
The study, which analysed billions of tweets, found hate speech “increasing across climate zones, income groups and belief systems” for temperatures too hot or too cold. This, the authors explain, indicates limits to adaptation to extreme temperatures.
Using machine learning techniques, the researchers identified 75 million “English-phrased” “hate tweets” in a dataset consisting of more than 4 billion posts on Twitter in the US between 2014 and 2020. They then analysed “how the number of hate tweets changed when local temperatures increased or decreased”.
The study used the United Nations (UN) definition of hate speech – “cases of discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor”.
Annika Stechemesser, first author of the study, said in a statement that “detecting hate tweets in more than four billion tweets from US users with our AI algorithm and combining them with weather data, we found that both the absolute number and the share of hate tweets rise outside a climate comfort zone: People tend to show a more aggressive online behaviour when it’s either too cold or too hot outside.”
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
Stechemesser continued: “Being the target of online hate speech is a serious threat to people’s mental health. The psychological literature tells us that online hate can aggravate mental health conditions, especially for young people and marginalised groups.”
She added: “We see that outside the feel-good window of 12°C to 21°C online hate increases up to 12% for colder temperatures and up to 22% for hotter temperatures across the US.”
Temperatures above 30°C were “consistently linked to strong increases in online hate across all climate zones and socioeconomic differences ...

Deadly avian flu hits endangered penguin colony on Cape Peninsula

The avian flu outbreak that killed thousands of cormorants on the Cape West Coast and devastated chicken farms has spread to the penguin colony in Simon’s Town.
The public has been advised not to approach, touch or handle seabirds around Simon’s Town to prevent the spread of the highly infectious H5N1 avian flu virus among African penguins at Boulders Beach. More than 10 penguins there have died in a colony that is already declining from other causes.
“Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease, almost always fatal,” said Dr David Roberts, clinical veterinarian for avian coastal conservation foundation Sanccob, which has been assessing the colony.
“African penguins are endangered and, from a conservation point of view, it’s very scary.”
There are about 3,000 penguins in the Boulders Beach colony – 1,000 breeding pairs and the rest are youngsters.
Sick penguins look sick. They hunch up, seem depressed, their eyes can be crusty, they can stagger, twitch, fall over and have seizures. Roberts has been training SANParks rangers to spot the signs.
Bird flu spreads between both wild and domesticated birds. There’s no cure and no preventive treatment. Birds that fall ill have to be removed and euthanised.
Western Cape Minister of Environmental Affairs, Anton Bredell, said that while avian flu held almost no risk to humans, if transmitted from wild seabirds to poultry flocks, it could pose a great risk to the agricultural sector.
Low risk to humans
Although human-to-human transmission is infrequent, it has been passed from birds to humans in close contact with poultry or other birds. The World Health Organization, which has been struggling with zoonic (animal-to-human) transmission of Covid-19, has warned that a genetic mutation of H5N1 could increase the risk to humans.
In 2017, Sanccob noted that avian flu was spreading southwards through Africa. In 2018 it was detected in swift terns and several other species. Then, in 2021, as South Africa staggered under the pandemic, it hit chicken farms, leading to import bans against the poultry industry, massive culls and a huge loss of income.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Thousands of endangered seabirds killed by H5N1 avian influenza outbreak”
That year, it also appeared on Dyer Island, De Mond and the Berg River on the Cape coast, resulting in the deaths of more than 24,000 Cape cormorants and Cape gannets. At the peak of the outbreak, the death rate was 700 a day.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
Cape cormorants ...

A closer look at the richness of South Africa’s biodiversity

The Daily Maverick article published on 10 September 2022, ‘SA’s biodiversity ranks as nothing too special’, is misleading in its title and a shallow treatment of a fascinating and important subject. By any measure, South Africa’s biodiversity is indeed very special. It is our natural heritage that all South Africans can be proud of and should nurture, and brings an array of benefits for people and the economy.
Matthew Nash’s study is quoted in the Daily Maverick article by Don Pinnock, and ranks South Africa as 19th out of 200 countries. This global data collation effort ignores a wealth of useful scientific work on the subject, and is not particularly enlightening.
Nash explains that “all data is based on raw numbers comparing countries without adjusting for size or geographic location”. We can quickly estimate that if country size is accounted for (which is the usual practice) , South Africa moves up the “rankings” from the top 10% into the top 5%.
More importantly, the number of species in a country (species richness) is only one measure of how “biodiverse” a nation is. There are other well-established ways to compare countries or regions using species and ecosystem richness and endemism, and vulnerability.
Seventeen megadiverse countries are identified — which together contain more than two-thirds of the world’s biodiversity. The main criterion for megadiverse countries is endemism. Species that are found in a single region or country, and nowhere else on earth, are known as endemic species.
In terms of endemism, South Africa is remarkable by any standard.
Around 50% of the South African species of amphibians, butterflies, reptiles, spiders and freshwater fish are endemic. Two-thirds or 67% of South Africa’s plant species are endemic. Approximately 40% of South Africa’s estimated 10,000 marine animal species are endemic.
South Africa ranks as one of the top 10 nations globally for plant species richness and third for marine species endemism. South Africa also holds three of the world’s 36 biodiversity hotspots (a measure of biological diversity combined with vulnerability to threats): the Cape Floristic Region, Succulent Karoo biome and the Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany centre of endemism.
South Africa’s wide range of bioclimatic, oceanographic, geological and topographical settings have resulted not only in high species diversity and endemism, but also high ecosystem diversity and endemism across all realms (terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine and marine).
The title of Pinnock’s article was misleading and actually potentially damaging to efforts to share information with the South African public about the ...

Clothing company Patagonia to donate annual profits of $100m to its ‘only shareholder’ — the Earth

Outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia’s announcement that ‘Earth is now the only shareholder’ of the $3bn company could shift the public’s perspective of big business’s responsibility to the planet.
‘If you want to die the richest man, then just stay sharp. Keep investing, don’t spend anything. Don’t eat any of the capital. Don’t have a good time. Don’t get to know yourself. Don’t give anything away. Keep it all. Die as rich as you can.
“But you know what? I heard an expression that puts it well: There’s no pocket on that last shirt.”
This is a quote from Susie Tompkins Buell that Yvon Chouinard, founder, former owner, and current board member of Patagonia included in his book Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman.
In an unprecedented move that had environmentalists celebrating and some business moguls sceptical, outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia announced that “Earth is now our only shareholder” of the $3-billion company — meaning that instead of making the company public, profits not reinvested back into the business will be distributed as dividends to protect the planet.
Chouinard has often stated he has never wanted to be a businessman, and recently told The New York Times that Forbes magazine listing him as a billionaire “really, really pissed me off”.
As Buell’s quote implies, once we’re gone, we can’t take anything with us — but we definitely can leave something behind.
In a letter published on Patagonia’s website on Wednesday, 14 September, the day the new ownership structure was announced, Chouinard stated: “I never wanted to be a businessman. I started as a craftsman, making climbing gear for my friends and myself, then got into apparel. As we began to witness the extent of global warming and ecological destruction, and our own contribution to it, Patagonia committed to using our company to change the way business was done.
“If we could do the right thing while making enough to pay the bills, we could influence customers and other businesses, and maybe change the system along the way.”
‘It’s not enough’
Patagonia has always been seen as a pioneer in the retail space for its unorthodox sustainable business practices. It was one of the first apparel companies to switch to organic cotton, which it did in 1996, and committed to giving away 1% of sales to grassroots environmental nonprofit organisations every year since 1985 — donating more than $100-million towards the preservation and restoration of the natural ...

Calls for Eskom to lift veil of silence on R20bn plan to extend Koeberg’s lifespan

While Eskom is positive about plans to extend the lifespan of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station for another 20 years, information on how it will do this has been kept largely under wraps, a move the DA is opposing — potentially legally.
South Africa is again experiencing rolling blackouts because of low capacity; a consequence of a unit at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station tripping during routine testing. As the country sits in darkness, details of plans to extend the lifespan of the ageing power station have not been shared.
Located about 30km outside of Cape Town, the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station was constructed in 1976, with the first unit going into commercial operation in 1984 and the second unit in 1985. It is the only nuclear power station in Africa and has the largest turbine generators in the Southern Hemisphere.
In line with international practice, the plant was granted a 40-year operational licence, which will expire in July 2024.
As Eskom seeks to extend the power station’s lifespan by 20 years, little information has been made public about the plan to do so. The upgrades to Koeberg are expected to cost R20-billion.
R20bn life extension of Koeberg power station poses significant risks for South Africa
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has taken steps to ensure the accessibility of this information to the public amid claims from Eskom that Koeberg was in good standing to operate for a further 20 years.
Keith Featherstone, Eskom’s nuclear support manager, said in a media briefing this week that submissions had been made to the National Nuclear Regulator to extend Koeberg’s operating licence. Featherstone said the utility had found the station needs only minor modifications and to implement some programmes to look after the equipment and ensure operation for the extra 20 years.
“[Eskom] has not identified any conditions that preclude the operation of Koeberg safety for another 20 years. The process now is for the regulator to review that and decide whether they agree with the conclusions and relay it to the public . and make a decision,” Featherstone said.
From 22 to 31 March, the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation review mission conducted an assessment of Koeberg, as requested by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE). The mission looked into the long-term operational safety of the two units at the power station, with the promise of a report three months after the visit. To ...

Eastern Cape municipality fined R1-million for deliberate neglect of landfill site

Inxuba Yethemba Municipality, formerly Cradock Municipality, has been fined R1m — suspended for five years — for not properly managing a landfill site.
Inxuba Yethemba Municipality dodged a R10-million fine after entering into a plea agreement with the state. It was fined R1-million, wholly suspended for five years, at the Cradock Regional Court on Monday.
The municipality was charged with contravening the National Environmental Management Act of 1998.
The municipality pleaded guilty to one count of non-compliance with a compliance notice, and a second count of non-compliance with the Waste Act of 2008.
In count one, the municipality unlawfully allowed the frequent burning of waste, ineffective access control and allowed general waste to be randomly disposed of on the non-permitted site.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
In count two, the municipality unlawfully failed to comply with a compliance notice in terms of the National Environmental Management Act.
A plea was entered into on behalf of the state by prosecutor Makabongwe Seyibokwe. Municipal manager Mkhululi Mbebe was represented by attorney Vuyani Majebe.
The parties agreed that counts one and two would be taken together for purposes of sentencing and the municipality was fined R1-million. The fine was suspended for five years on the following conditions:
That the accused is not convicted of any further offences in terms of the National Environmental Management Act during the period of suspension;
That the operations on the landfill site are brought into compliance with the provisions of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act in that the accused will, from the date of the judgment, comply with the provisions of the compliance notice issued to the Municipal Manager on 9 September 2016 by the Department of Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism.
According to the plea agreement, the municipality applied to the department for a waste management licence for the decommissioning of the solid waste landfill site in Cradock.
The licence was granted and the municipality had to operate the site according to specific conditions.
“[The department] was responsible for the enforcement of environmental legislation, to wit, enforcement of the management and permit conditions of Cradock landfill site. The site had many problems that were never successfully resolved due to poor management of the facility and financial constraints on a local, provincial and national level. Pollution and environmental degradation occurred,” read the agreement.
Lapsed licence
It said the municipality did not apply for an extension of the waste management licence after it lapsed in 2018.
“Site ...

Scientists, academics and healthcare professionals prescribe ‘fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty’ for a healthier world

A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, leading academics and the head of the planet’s foremost public health agency met hundreds of health professionals and organisations from across the globe on Wednesday. They are calling for an end to global dependence on fossil fuels to protect people’s health.
‘The modern addiction to fossil fuels is not just an act of environmental vandalism. From the health perspective, it is an act of self-sabotage.”
These were the words of Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), in a statement affirming his support for a plan outlined in an open letter signed by more than 1,000 health professionals and 200 health organisations across the globe on Wednesday.
Among the signatories to the letter are global health heavyweights like the World Medical Association, the Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment, the World Federation of Public Health Associations and the WHO.
The letter calls on governments to urgently develop and implement what the signatories are calling a “Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty” — a legally binding international pact to “end global dependence on fossil fuels” and “protect the health of people around the world”.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
The United Nations defines a treaty as an “instrument” comprised of four criteria. First, it needs to be a “binding instrument”, which means the “contracting parties intend to create legal rights and duties”. Second, the instrument “must be concluded by states or international organisations with treaty-making power”, and third, the instrument needs to be governed by international law. Fourth, it needs to be in writing.
The mooted Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty finds inspiration in the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The framework, which was the first international treaty negotiated under the auspices of the WHO, was developed in response to the “globalisation of the tobacco epidemic” and is an “evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health”, according to the UN.
In a similar vein, the proposed treaty would be an “evidence-based international agreement to control a category of substances well-known to be harmful to human health: coal, oil and gas.”
The letter lays out several threats fossil fuels pose to planetary and human health:
Air pollution, most significantly from burning fossil fuels, causes more than seven million premature deaths each year and contributes to cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions and cancers. Wildfires, made increasingly intense and common by climate change, ...

From smart agriculture to 3D-printed houses, 4IR tech can help combat the climate crisis

Economic growth and climate action can be pursued concomitantly through innovative thinking, the convergence of technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the mindset that goes with them.
With COP27 approaching, countries will engage again on climate change matters and how best to tackle them. African countries are looking to make their voices heard in conversations about the financial aid that has been promised to them.
The increase in global temperatures caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is trapping heat and causing rapid climate change. This has significant implications for our planet, including more extreme weather events, rising sea levels and extinction of plant and animal species.
Through Sustainable Development Goal 13 (Climate Action), all countries are encouraged to take immediate action in the fight against climate change.
The climate crisis, however, is a global problem; it is also closely related to other Sustainable Development Goals; these latter relationships will ultimately affect how humanity can function and at the same time make it more challenging to tackle the issue.
For example, Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims to end hunger, but most agricultural products require specific environmental conditions to succeed; farmers cannot produce food when environmental conditions are not conducive. Wheat farmers in Nineveh, Iraq, are being forced to settle for lower prices because their harvest has been of poor quality due to the drought caused by climate change. Iraq has experienced extreme temperatures and droughts for at least the past two years.
Without any wheat to sell, most farmers in Nineveh are being forced to abandon agriculture in search of something that will put food on the table.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “When the climate crisis and 4IR converge, a new economy beckons”
During the First Industrial Revolution, increased steam engine use and fossil fuel burning was already leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions, negatively affecting our environment. This increase was due to the sudden rise in production and consumption.
Over the past century there has been an exponential rise in production and consumption, which is not sustainable in the long run. SDG 12 (Consumption and Production that is Responsible) and SDG 13 (Action to Combat Climate Change) stand in a negative relationship because as one decreases, so does the other.
On the other hand, intense droughts and heatwaves can destroy animal habitats, directly harming animals and endangering their lives. Recently in Zimbabwe, thousands of animals were moved from a reserve in the southern region ...

Jagersfontein dam disaster highlights transparency, ESG issues

The unfolding disaster in Jagersfontein, triggered by the collapse of a tailings dam wall, has put the mining industry’s environmental and safety record into focus. The news is not all bad as the mining industry strives to clean up its act — the problem is that many unlisted companies remain below the radar.
In January 2019, a dam holding mine waste in Brazil collapsed into a raging torrent of nine million cubic metres of tailings, killing 270 people in the town of Brumadinho. The dam was part of the operation of the Córrego do Feijão iron ore mine owned by Brazilian mining giant, Vale.
That disaster was a massive wake-up call to an industry that had for decades been under pressure to clean up its environmental and safety act. One of many initiatives to emerge was a Global Standard of Tailings Management (the Standard) developed by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), the United Nations Environment Programme and the UN-linked Principles for Responsible Investment.
“The Standard has made tailings dams a focus for the entire global industry, rather than just a few companies. This has put responsible management of tailings on the agenda of executives and boards in a way that rarely happened before. This is having an impact,” ICMM CEO Rohitesh Dhawan and COO Aidan Davy recently said on the group’s website.
As of January 2022, 79 companies (including ICMM’s 26 members) have committed to implementing the Standard.
“Although the Standard is voluntary, there are consequences for ignoring it. For example, the Church of England Pension Board, managing about £4-billion in assets, has said it will vote against the Chairs of companies that have not committed to implement the Standard.”
The CoE Pension Board also helped nudge Anglo American to shed its South African coal assets.
All of this is tapping into the current corporate zeitgeist with its focus on ESGs — environmental, social and governance issues.
The upshot is that the construction and maintenance of tailings dams — which store the byproducts of mining operations — are being closely monitored, and any company that has a disaster on its hands will pay a steep price. Vale has paid $7-billion in compensation to the communities affected by the 2019 incident in Brazil and its legal woes are not over.
Jagersfontein Developments
This brings us to the Jagersfontein diamond mine and its tailings dam, which killed at least one person and displaced scores of others when its wall ...

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