Premiere screenings of Al Gore’s new film ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’ in South Africa

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Premiere screenings of Al Gore’s new film ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’ in South Africa

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Since 1 July 2017: while the drought consolidates its grip over the Western Cape, hurricanes Irma and Harvey have shaken north and central America, a mudslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone caused the death of more than a thousand people, a flood sunk a third of Bangladesh under water and forest fires ravaged southern Mediterranean…

Coincidences? No – these are realities of the inconvenient truth about climate change.

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Download the press release here.
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A decade ago, former US Vice President Al Gore captured the attention of the world with his film, An Inconvenient Truth. The follow-up, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, has just come out on the screens across the globe, including in South Africa.
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On 13 September 2017, the African Climate Reality Project hosted four simultaneous premieres of the sequel in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The movie examines the progress and setbacks that have occurred in dealing with climate change since the original film in 2006, and follows Al Gore’s global efforts to persuade governmental leaders to invest in renewable energy, culminating in the landmark signing of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments both private and public, funny and poignant – as he pursues the inspirational idea that, while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.
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The impact of the US leaving the agreement comes into sharp focus as it considers the diminishing action by the US and less funding for climate change mitigation in the developing countries, including South Africa.

“The Inconvenient Sequel shows the growing impact that climate change is having on the world, as well as the huge strides we’re making in renewable energy,” said Gill Hamilton, Branch Manager for the African Climate Reality Project.

The premiere events were organised in partnership with Ster-Kinekor Cinema Nouveau, United International Pictures, Backsberg Estate Cellars, GreenHome, Food Lovers Market, Famer’s Weekly and Kusini Water. They were attended by over 220 government officials, entrepreneurs, captains of industry, academics and advocates for environmental transformation and mitigation of climate change.
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As an introduction to the film, several keynote speakers gave a perspective on the work being done in South Africa to mitigate and adapt to climate change, as well as the challenges at hand to achieve a low-carbon and just future. Recognising the impact of greenhouse emissions on South Africa’s climate and habitats, they echoed their support for urgent transformation of the nation’s energy sources into renewables, conservation of forests and carbon sinks, and decarbonisation of transport and other infrastructure.

For Adv. Johan van den Berg, a renewable energy practitioner, Managing Director of Skrander and former CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association, the film offers the opportunity to assess where we are on the journey towards environmental sustainability and climate protection. Speaking at the Johannesburg event, he framed his talk  around “climate criminality” and speaking truth to power. He highlighted that in the decade since the launch of An inconvenient truth, two big changes occurred: the formidable growth of renewable energy, which has seen the cheapest source of new electricity in almost 60 developed and developing countries; and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which although not perfect, saw 180 countries converge towards a same vision. “If we combine these two big developments, we have the means to decarbonise quickly across the economy and we have the international regulatory framework to guide our progress”, said van den Berg. Yet political challenges linked to powerful vested interests in keeping conventional energy rolling are sabotaging our collective future by impeding the international climate effort, as witnessed in South Africa and the USA.  More than ever, van den Berg insisted, do we need to raise public awareness and speak truth to power.
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There is hope: renewable energy has already won the long term war against unsustainable energy sources
(Johan van den Berg)

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Following on these remarks, Makoma Lekalakala from Earthlife Africa addressed the audience on whether nuclear power belongs in a sustainable energy mix. She challenged the idea of nuclear energy as a “clean” and low-carbon option that will help secure electricity access to all in South Africa, and exposed some of the environmental, economic and governance risks associated  with the proposed nuclear deal.

In Pretoria, Honourable Executive Mayor of Tshwane Solly Msimanga shared with the audience the City’s vision and achievements thus far in terms of implementing an ambitious climate change strategy, with concrete examples ranging from clean transport to renewable energy generation to waste management. Executive Mayor Msimanga argued that as centers of growth that attract more and more residents, cities must be designed and managed sustainably. He mentioned examples of the work being done by the Tshwane Municipality, such as investment in a recycling plant for green waste, rubble and recyclable material; the 4.5 MW Bio2Watt biogas plant; the order of 20 buses running on compressed natural gas and the promotion of electrical vehicles; the recent Embedded Energy Generation policy aimed at encouraging residents to produce their own energy by means of solar power and selling any excess to the municipality

He emphasized that while we have to take action on climate change now in order to build a brighter future to the next generations, the transition to low-carbon economy must be a just one, especially when it comes to jobs.

Innovation Hub’s Green Economy Director Dr Rethabile Melamu gave some encouraging facts about the development of the green economy. She mentioned a few examples of innovative climate mitigation solutions supported by the Hub’s green business support programme, and reminded the audience that in 2015, South Africa had the fastest growing green economy in the world driven by the roll-out of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P), drastic cost reduction of utility scale renewable generated power (e.g., less than 70c for solar PV in the last round of the RE4P programme), increased skill base etc.

Dr Melamu insisted that climate change is as much an economic imperative as it is an environmental and moral issue. Failure to increase efforts to mitigate against it now will compel us to divert significant resources from essential developmental and social sectors towards adaptation in the future. She therefore called on the ambassadors, country representatives and the Mayor of Tshwane to prioritise polices that reflect our intentions to tackle climate change, for instance by allocating 30% of city’s budget towards sustainable procurement or supporting home-brewed innovation that addresses local needs in a climate-friendly manner.
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We need to put our money where our mouths are.
(Dr Rethabile Melamu)

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In Durban, Cllr Nkosenhle Madlala delivered a speech on behalf of Honourable Mayor Zandile Gumede, addressing the municipality’s commitment to shift towards renewable energy and foster job creation through the green economy. An environmental champion, Councillor Gumede was recently elected as one of the Vice-Chairpersons for the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) Steering Committee, the governing body that provides strategic direction for the C40 network of mega-cities committed to action on climate change.

In her address, Councillor Gumede reminded the audience that, the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action at COP17 in Durban in 2011 laid the foundation for the Paris Agreement. The city also catalysed the establishment of a global advocacy platform for climate change adaptation at the city level, which resulted in the Durban Adaptation Charter . “It is extremely important that the political momentum that was achieved during COP21 is not lost”, insisted Councillor Gumede. “With the recent run of record global average annual temperatures, and a clear message from scientists about the human cause of climate change, as well as the urgent need for action, it is clear that we have a narrow window of opportunity to act”.

She explained that the City places the vulnerable communities and the natural infrastructure at the centre of its mitigation and adaptation efforts, for instance through innovative projects where vulnerable community members are employed to manage the city’s ecosystems for protection from extreme weather events. She stressed the importance of engaging and empowering communities with relevant knowledge in order to respond properly to the effects of climate change and engage with inclusive public participation processes.
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Cities are at the forefront of addressing global action on climate change
(Honourable Mayor of eThekwini Municipality, Councillor Zandile Gumede)

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Echoing the presentations made in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Councillor Gumede said that while we are compelled to act urgently now, never before has the economic climate been so ready for action as renewable energy costs outcompete fossil fuel options. She concluded by stating that Durban is set on using its action to secure a carbon emissions development pathway and adapting to climate change as a means to reduce poverty, inequality and vulnerability.

Following on the Mayor’s presentation, Head of Development Planning Environment & Management, Mr Musa Mbhele described some of the climate change work being done in the City of eThekwini under its Durban Climate Change Strategy. Using the Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning Systems (LEAP) model, the city endeavours to map different scenarios which include energy efficiency and embedded generation in order to reduce its greenhouse gases emissions and to contribute to the global goal of limiting average temperature increases. Mbhele highlighted that there are substantial opportunities in wind power and other technologies that are worth exploring, especially as the city aims at supplying 40% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030.

Mbhele added that that climate change requires an inclusive and collaborative approach, which is why the city has entered into strategic partnerships with industry, academic institutions and other cities in order to develop knowledge and unlock opportunities presented by climate change. Echoing the words of the Mayor, he insisted that enforcing basics rights of the residents is part of addressing climate change.
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In Cape Town, Director of Resilience in the City of Cape Town Gareth Morgan talked of the City’s efforts and achievements thus far to mitigate against and adapt to climate change. As the impacts of climate change are being fully experienced now, we are now adapting to climate change in real time. As one example, he talked about the water crisis that the City has been experiencing and some of the city’s efforts to address it. These includes the development of new drought scenarios for Cape Town as well as the City’s first ever Resilience Strategy in collaboration with 100 Resilient Cities Initiative and the Rockefeller Foundation. The strategy is a multi-disciplinary response to the various stresses and shocks that Cape Town faces. Overall, Morgan stated that the level of ambition, in line with Paris Agreement, needs to be achieved and surpassed, and that cities have a critical role in responding to climate change. Citing another initiative of the City of Cape Town taking action, he explained that the recent Green Bond, which raised R1bn and which was oversubscribed by 4.3 times, shows that investors are looking for such verified green product and that more of these need to be offered on the market.

Fossil Free South Africa  Coordinator and Climate Reality Leader David le Page explained why divesting from fossil fuels is an urgent imperative if we are to keep global warming to a level that we can cope with – maximum 1.5 degrees Celsius as per what the world agreed in Paris. “We are already battling with 1 degree of warming”, he said. Le Page added that the concept of divestment is actually gaining traction. “When we started campaigning for divestment four years ago, divestment sounded radical. Now, funds worth $5.4 trillion around the world have committed to various flavours of divestment”, he explained.

Le Page was adamant: the fossil fuel industry is currently defying the global consensus. If we burn all the buried reserves of today’s fossil fuel companies, we will push average global warming, way above four degrees. He called on all companies that burn fossil fuel to transform their business model in the next coming 25 years, and on all stakeholders to commit to fossil fuel divestment. With the endorsement of a wide range of partner organisations, Fossil Free South Africa is launching a petition to South Africa’s top 5 asset managers and the Public Investment Corporation, calling on them to create fossil fuel-free funds for us all to invest in. Evidence from almost every country that is committed to renewable energy is that it is growing jobs. They’re usually better, safer, healthier jobs than in the fossil fuel industry.
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The world we want is this: a stable climate, fewer wars, healthy children, clear air & water, a switch to wind & solar energy, green jobs, stable energy costs and energy independence, cleaner governance, more land for food and forests, sound investments and quieter cities.
(David le Page)

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Concluding the speeches at all four events, the African Climate Reality Project called on all participants to support divestment from fossil fuel at all levels. The full call to action can be downloaded here.
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Some of the biggest advancements in technology over the past few years have come from trying to limit the main cause of climate change – the burning of fossil fuels as a source of energy, and of raw materials including plastics and other products in use.

Renewable energy innovations, such as wind farms, solar panels and wave-energy converters, harness the power of nature in a clean and sustainable way while bioplastics made from plants offer a cleaner alternative to petroleum oil based plastics. But to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are choking the Earth, there is an urgent need to expand the use of existing technologies and continue to research and develop more efficient and cost-effective solutions.

“The movie is a must-see for anyone who cares about humanity and where we are headed. Its message is simple – we must fight like our world depends on it. Because it does,” concluded Hamilton.
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