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Johannesburg, 28 March 2020 — Barbara Creecy, Minister of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries this week gazetted the doubling of the minimum emissions standards for Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), weakening the limit from an already weak 500mg/Nm3 to 1 000mg/Nm3[1]. In response, Bukelwa Nzimande, Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Africa, has said:

“There is nothing in the world that can justify the government’s decision to approve a further 3 300 deaths every year[2]. In a time of great fear and uncertainty, South Africa needs to see that the government has the courage and political will to address issues that have threatened, and now have express permission to continue to threaten, our livelihood. It defies all logic and humanity that, in a global crisis, Minister Creecy has made a decision that indicates the opposite: that South African lives are less valuable than profits.

“There is evidence that air pollution exposure can lead to increased incidence and severity of some respiratory infections. Doubling the SO2 limits in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is nothing short of irresponsible, and a flagrant disregard for the health and humanity of the people of South Africa.

“Big polluters like Eskom and Sasol have been trying to dodge their accountability to South Africans for years. Weakening the limits further means they can do so with minimal effort, and mutes the urgency of a Just Transition to renewable energy. In the face of a mountain of evidence that a pro-pollution decision will only lead to more unnecessary deaths, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has shown that its loyalties lie with polluters, not people,” ended Nzimande.

Notes to the editor

[1] This limit is 10 times weaker than India’s limit, and 28 times weaker than China’s limit.

[2] The doubling of SO2 emissions limits is projected to cause 3 300 premature deaths, with 1 000 of those in the Gauteng City Region, according to recent research by Greenpeace which can be found here.

Contact details
Chris Vlavianos, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Africa, 0798837036, [email protected]