Parys calls on Paris to come clean

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Oxpeckers ClimaTracker, Parys, South Africa

In a town heavily affected by polluting industries, a People’s Climate Camp called on world leaders involved in global negotiations in Paris to “act as if they mean it”.

The camp gathered on the banks of the Vaal River in Parys, an industrialized town in Free State province named after the French capital city.

The Parys climate camp was attended by communities most affected by heavy polluters

“The people from the fencelines of polluting industries call for an early peak to greenhouse gas emissions followed by a steep decline in emissions – globally and in South Africa,” the group said.

“This must be accompanied by a transition to clean energy and production, and the restoration of land damaged by dirty production based on fossil fuels.”

The climate camp brought together neighbours of coal-based industries in the Vaal and Highveld, oil refineries in south Durban and various mining activities around South Africa.

There were also waste pickers doing the real business of recycling whose livelihoods are threatened by plans to burn waste for energy, and ecological community gardeners from the Western Cape.

The message from the gathering was clear: if negotiators at COP21 in Paris are unable to secure the future, civil society will step in.

“The world’s leaders will not make meaningful action in Paris. They will offer only false solutions. The fight for real solutions and a liveable future is in the hands of the ordinary people,” a spokesperson told Oxpeckers.

South Africa’s economy, shaped by the use of dirty energy and cheap labour, had made it the most unequal society in the world, with nearly 60% of its citizens living in poverty, according to official statistics.

“There is more work in clean production and cleaning up the mess created by corporate polluters. The corporations that profited from destroying the country should now pay for restoring it,” the group said in a statement.

The climate camp was held at the Mimosa camping and caravan park in Parys from December 1 to 4, and was hosted by the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance and the South African Waste Pickers Association.