Climate Refugee "Animals" Push Climate Change on to the Agenda

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Press release - December 3, 2010
Greenpeace activists dressed as polar bears and the big five gathered today at Johannesburg's Gandhi square to highlight climate change. They held banners reading “My house in the Arctic melted” and “Water hole dried-up, need new home”.

Johannesburg – 02 December 2010 – The climate refugee “animals” have been hanging outside the Department of Home Affairs and at busy intersections across the city over the past two weeks. Greenpeace Africa wanted to emphasize the urgency of climate change during the current round of international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico and ahead of next year's negotiations in Durban. 

Greenpeace’s Nkopane Maphiri said “we are already witnessing the impacts of climate change; the polar ice-caps are melting, which means that polar bears are likely to face extinction as they lose their home. In South Africa, the big five are likely to be affected by increased droughts due to climate change. Climate change is about people, it’s about the future and it’s about today.  Already in Africa farmers and most vulnerable people are experiencing losses in harvests and water gets scarcer. The animals were chosen to symbolize the plight of women and men in Africa.” He added “our government should do all they can to prevent dangerous climate change.”

The animals were warmly received by commuters and pedestrians, curious to know what their message was. Some went so far as to contact radio stations to try and find out what was going on.

In addition, Greenpeace Africa has organized several activities across the city to coincide with the Cancun talks including a seminar on the SA energy supply, as well as a photo exhibition that visualises the impacts climate change already has in Africa. The photos done by renowned photographer Evan Abrahams; ‘When the Water Ends’ highlight the impacts of increasing droughts on nomadic tribes along the border of Kenya and Ethiopia.

As part of the Global Day of Action, supporters and activists will also gather on 4th December to create a human banner to illustrate that the climate is in crisis, and it urgently needs to be rescued.

According to Maphiri, “Catastrophic climate change is not inevitable. We have an opportunity both in Cancun and next year in South Africa to push for a green economy that creates sustainable jobs; we need to pursue an energy revolution, which seeks to promote the use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power and increased energy efficiency. More importantly, every single person can and should act in the fight for a sustainable energy future”.

Greenpeace Africa Contacts

  • Nkopane Maphiri, Climate and Energy Campaigner: +27 (0) 72 560 8666
  • Fiona Musana, Communications Director Greenpeace Africa: +27 (0) 795129381

For photos, contact Fiona Musana or Mike Baillie on + 27 11 482 4696


Details on the Greenpeace Africa activities during Cancun can be found here:

All Greenpeace information and background on Cancun, including press releases, can be found here:


Greenpeace demands for Cancun are in five key areas.

  • To avoid dangerous climate change, governments will, ultimately, need to conclude a legally binding agreement that provides deep emission reduction cuts in developed countries as well as substantial action to limit emissions in developing countries. The industrialised world must also provide money for climate action in poor countries.
  • In order to make this happen and to keep up momentum, governments must agree to a number of building blocks for this agreement and should, in Cancun
  • reiterate their goal to keep global temperature rise well below 2°C, and review this number in light of the fact that a 1.5° rise will have dangerous impacts;
  • acknowledge that the current emission reduction commitments will not allow us to avoid dangerous climate change - and agree on a process to increase those commitments;
  • set up a Climate Fund;
  • agree a work plan to decide on innovative sources for long-term climate finance;
  • establish a mechanism to tackle emissions from deforestation and ensure this mechanism protects both biodiversity and indigenous peoples' rights.