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Brexit
Green groups sound environment alarm over Brexit
8 March 2019, 7:15 AM

Leaving the EU could cause “untold damage” to Britain’s ecosystems and undermine its attempts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, green groups warned on Friday, calling on the government to prioritise the environment after Brexit.

With 80% of Britain’s current environmental guidelines – governing everything from air pollution to waste disposal – coming from Brussels, there are fears that ministers are ignoring the ecological fallout of exiting the bloc.

“If we have a no-deal Brexit, the government is going to be busy with other things,” said Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), an environmental think tank.

“In terms of policy development, there’s an awful lot of catching up to do, frankly.”

The government says it is committed to upholding the highest environmental standards when Britain leaves the EU, with or without a deal.

In a speech last year, Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain “will continue to lead the world in delivering on our commitments to the planet”. She promised that EU green guidelines would be adopted into national law after Brexit.

But environmentalists say there is little legislation in the pipeline to ensure Britain toes the line in terms of emissions, conservation and air quality – and virtually no legal recourse if it doesn’t.

“It’s instructive that a large number of the cases that end up before the European Court of Justice are environmental,” Amy Mount, who heads the Greener UK Unit at the Green Alliance, told AFP.

“Right now, people in the UK benefit from access to a strong, independent body which has real powers to make governments across the EU enforce their own laws rather than ignoring them.”

Britain was taken to the ECJ last year after repeatedly breaching EU-set limits on air pollution.

After Brexit, the government is planning its own domestic watchdog, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP).

It says the OEP “will ensure that this and every future government benefits from the expertise vested in a consistent, long-term, independent body on the environment” and “offer a strong system of accountability”.

But green groups and legal experts have expressed concern over its power and impartiality. Current plans outlined in policy papers state the OEP will have its leadership and funding set by the government.

“That doesn’t sound like the strong body we were promised to keep up our environmental defences,” said Kierra Box from Friends of the Earth.

“It’s still far from certain we’ll have even this weak model in place by exit day, which could lead to untold damage to natural spaces and species in the meantime.”

Last month the government issued energy and emissions advice to businesses in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It said Britain’s emissions would cease to be covered by the EU’s current cap system.

It said there were “no current plans to introduce additional domestic policy to cover emissions” in the short term, and that airlines would not be subject to any national emissions tax.

Black told AFP that failing to account for emissions from aviation – currently responsible for roughly 2% of all greenhouse gas emissions – “does seem to be a hole”.

“It’s a really big problem because all the projections show aviation growing as a share of the UK’s emissions well into the future and if Britain is actually going to set a net zero target for carbon emissions, then everything you emit you’ve got to absorb,” he said.

Britain has made solid progress on emissions cuts, with 2017 levels 43% lower than in 1990.

But the fear with Brexit is that key ministries such as transport, housing and the treasury may be tempted to seek the short-term economic gain of environmental deregulation — and face few barriers against doing so.

A no-deal Brexit, for example, would see Britain lose access to the EU database of safe chemicals, be uncovered by sea pollution protections, and freed from the threat of ECJ rebuke over air pollution.

As one of the EU’s biggest waste exporters, a no-deal could see rubbish pile up, hurriedly buried or burned in incinerators – all with concomitant environmental costs.

Brexit proponents say that leaving the EU will allow Britain more freedom to set its own laws after decades of taking instructions from Brussels.

But according to Box, Britain’s track record of environmental foot-dragging within the EU offers no assurance it will prioritise green initiatives when it leaves.

“We could have chosen to set lower limits on acceptable levels of air pollution. We didn’t,” she said.

“We could have chosen to ban bee-harming pesticides earlier, and we still could choose to ban fracking. We didn’t and we haven’t.”

International Women's Day.
International Women’s Day celebrated
8 March 2019, 6:52 AM

“Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”. That’s the theme of Friday’s International Women’s Day as policymakers, activists and gender equality stakeholders seek ways to use innovation to boost investment in gender responsive social systems and build public services and infrastructure to meet the growing needs of women and girls in particular.

The day comes just ahead of the start of the annual Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York, the single largest forum to build consensus on Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Over 9 000 delegates are expected to descend on United Nations Headquarters (UNHQ) over the next two weeks. Starting with International Women’s Day.

Executive Director of UNWOMEN Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says, “The thinking behind the theme captures the 21st century, which is an era of change that is fast, high impact and has capacity to reach even those who will be left behind because they are furthest away. We are however saying that when we innovate, we have to think about those people who aren’t always in the minds of those who innovate, we have to facilitate for women to be part of those who innovate because they will be able to focus on their own problems. If women are doing artificial intelligence, the robots will address the issues that impact on women and we’re trying to showcase the fact that women want to do this work and innovation must speak to women’s issues.”

She says they are seeking solutions that are both simple and complex to meet the needs of women across the globe, particularly as the focus shifts to social protection, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure as part of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) deliberations.

“A consideration of policies by governments that ensure that the basic infrastructure that enables women to have a fighting change is seen as a must have in every country because if you talk about access to clean water and sanitation, this has to be seen as a right and it has to be made affordable and free where people cannot afford it at all. I would like at CSW this year, we also make sure that we look at creating specific programmes that look at women in the informal sector who in many countries of the world do not have social protection because social protection is not universal but also they don’t have infrastructure to trade, they don’t even have sanitation facilities where they are running their little businesses.”

Gender activist Dr Lesley Ann Foster is among the thousands attending CSW63. She runs an Eastern Cape based advocacy and empowerment organisation – Masimanyane Women’s Rights International – working to eradicate violence against women while providing them with support.

“Masimanyane Women’s Rights International is looking at systemic change. So we need to be here to hear what our governments are committing to, how they’re engaging with the process of the outcomes document; we want to be sure that our concerns are contained within that document. We are here representing the women from our country and to take back the information to the women from our country so that we can hold our state to account to at a national level for what it has committed to at a global level,” says Foster.

A gathering that often pits government’s against each other with powerful civil society groupings in the mix; particularly on areas of divergence like sexual and reproductive health where conservative and progressive forces often fail to find harmony.

Dr Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka was asked if the commission was fit for purpose based on its consensus-driven approach to outcomes. This was her response…

“The CSW is a space for contestation, just like the Security Council is, depending on what is happening in the real world, it places itself inside the commission so you have the issues that people are disagreeing or agreeing about out there in the world, playing themselves inside the commission but also there tends to be a lot that people can agree on.”


The 63rd session of the commission runs from 11th through the 22nd of March. The South African delegation is expected to include several ministries.

crime scene
The bodies of two 10-year-old boys found
8 March 2019, 6:05 AM

The bodies of two young boys have been found in a swimming pool of a house in Mahikeng in the North West on Thursday night.

The bodies match those of two 10-year-olds who were kidnapped on Tuesday night.

The discovery of the bodies has angered the community of Imperial Reserve, who threatened to set the house alight.

A high contingency of police have been deployed to the area.

Some community members clashed with the police, as they wanted to torch the house that they believed is being used as a drug den.

It was reported on Tuesday that two 10-year-old boys were kidnapped after being lured with a packet of chips to a vehicle with three occupants.

Police spokesperson Lesedi Dingoko says after thorough investigations, they managed to discover two bodies matching those that were reported missing.

The parents have confirmed to the SABC that the bodies are that of their children who were playing at Montshioa park on Tuesday, when they were kidnapped.

Currently no one has been arrested as investigations are still underway.

Judge Raymond Zondo.
State Capture Inquiry to resume on Friday
8 March 2019, 5:45 AM

The State Capture Commission is expected to hear the evidence from Eskom officials, Gert Opperman and Johann Bester, on Friday morning in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Earlier this week, Snehal Nagar of Eskom’s Primary Energy Division said that Eskom’s payment system had to be manipulated in order to make a controversial R600-million pre-payment to Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

Nagar said he was instructed to effect the payment within a matter of hours of the request.

Nagar said that there were no supporting documents for the request and the whole transaction went against Eskom’s procurement processes.

The Commission’s evidence leader and Senior Counsel, Advocate Phillip Mokoena said that an assessment of the statement brought forward by Nagar, indicated that Eskom’s tender board committee resolved to give Tegeta the R600 million pre-payment without Tegeta ever having asked for the funds.

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refugees and migrants.
Two children die as migrant boat sinks off Greek island
7 March 2019, 11:22 AM

Two children were among three people who died early on Thursday when a migrant boat sank near the Greek island of Samos, the coastguard said.

At least 12 people including one more child are believed to have been in the boat.

The two young boys died shortly after being rescued, while the body of a man was recovered shortly afterwards, the coastguard said.

More than 200 refugees and migrants have died in 2019 while trying to cross the Mediterranean, the majority headed to Italy, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Greece is hosting over 70 000 mostly Syrian refugees and migrants who have fled their countries since 2015.

The island of Samos, in the eastern Aegean Sea near the Turkish coast, has one of the country’s most congested camps, with some 4 000 people crammed into a facility originally built to house fewer than 700.

Conditions at Greek island camps have been repeatedly criticised by rights groups. The Greek government says the problem is partly caused by a huge backlog of refugee asylum applications.

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