The Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA) is urging the national government to tackle climate change by reducing air pollution and waste. The government has already announced that it will push for more renewable sources of energy by 2030 and reduce the country’s dependence on coal-fired power stations, which will greatly reduce carbon emissions.
According to PHASA, fossil fuel-burning energy is a major health issue for South Africans. “It is an invisible killer. It can be deadly. Some 29% of deaths from lung cancer are due to air pollution,” says PHASA chairperson James Irlam. He was speaking at the public hearings at a recent Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on energy.
South Africans, young and old, are susceptible to lung conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. This can be a drain on public funds and the economy as health and productivity are affected, according to Irlam.
The country’s health policies are important when it comes to reducing climate change and improving the well-being of South Africans. “Health is the bottom line of climate change. What affects the health of our planet will affect the quality and shortness of our lives,” states Irlam.
“Rising temperatures and rising sea levels are affecting the whole spectrum of determinants of health. We are seeing that in South Africa, with droughts and heat waves, which have led to heat stress, malnutrition and diarrhoea,” he continues.
Air and land pollution are areas of concern for the national government. Litter and waste in landfills is also a contributor of greenhouse gases. “Air pollution and climate change are interrelated. Acting on air pollution can help to mitigate climate change,” says Irlam.
“Tackling climate change could be the greatest global opportunity of the twenty-first century. Are we seizing that opportunity?,” he asked members of Parliament. Reducing pollution requires effort from everyone – government, businesses and individuals.
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