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Centre for Environmental Rights – Advancing Environmental Rights in South Africa

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The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER), in partnership with the African Climate Alliance (ACA) and SECTION27, invite you to join the launch of Dr Garret Barnwell’s report on Climate Change and Mental Health. The report explores the mental health consequences of climate change in South Africa.

This report is one of the series of expert reports that CER is launching in support of the #CancelCoal campaign, in which community organisations and the youth are challenging the government’s proposed procurement of new coal-fired power generation.

Dr Garret Barnwell, an independent practice clinical psychologist with more than 10 years of experience in the international medical humanitarian sector and community psychology, will be in conversation with Gabriel Klaasen of the African Climate Alliance and Mbali Baduza from SECTION27. Their discussion will focus on the impacts of the climate crisis on health and/or health systems as well as the threat to mental health and wellbeing arising from the decision to develop new coal capacity, particularly for young people and coal-affected communities.

Date: Tuesday, 07 September 2021

Time: 10H00 – 11H30 (SAST)

Where: Zoom Meeting

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A coalition of organisations including the African Climate Alliance, Vukani Environmental Movement in Action, and groundWork is objecting to the inclusion of 1 500 MW new unnecessary and harmful coal in the government’s Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity (IRP) and a Ministerial determination of September 2020, that calls for the development of that coal capacity. This comes at a time when South Africa needs to urgently transition away from l coal to avoid the harms of the climate crisis. The group argues that proceeding with new coal-fired power electricity capacity when there are feasible clean alternatives that do not have these harmful impacts would be in conflict with the Constitution. This means that an IRP that irrationally includes expensive new coal could be held up by court challenges for years to come.

With cheap renewable electricity alternatives, the South African government has an opportunity to produce clean and affordable electricity without the same harmful effects on health, climate change, and environmental impacts. There are also job opportunities that come with transitioning to cleaner electricity sources as the world moves away from coal. We need the government to adopt an electricity policy (and IRP) that unlocks the potential for clean energy and rejects new coal power.

The impact of coal on the environment has been proven to speed up climate change, which has irreversible harmful repercussions for all aspects of life in South Africa. Today’s youth will bear the brunt of these impacts as climate impacts intensify in the coming years.

In his report, Garret Barnwell states that “The government’s choice to not adequately avert the mental health impacts of climate change contribute to the psychological experience of institutional betrayal and secondary trauma for current and future generations. The institutions that are supposed to safeguard communities are the ones making decisions that will have irreversible and profound consequences for their mental health and wellbeing. We cannot escape the fact that climate change impacts pose an existential threat to individuals, families, and communities that is psychologically – and otherwise – harmful.”

Join us as we unpack the issues around the mental health impacts of climate change in South Africa.


10h00 – 10h10 Welcome and introduction
Lerato Balendran & Michelle Koyama, Centre For Environmental Rights
10h10 – 10h30 Report Findings: Garret Barnwell
10h30 – 10h40 Mental Health Advocacy
Mbali Baduza, SECTION27
10h40 – 10h50 Mental Health & the Youth
Gabriel Klaasen, African Climate Alliance
10h50 – 11h20 Media Q&A
Lerato Balendran, Centre For Environmental Rights
11h20 – 11h30 Closing