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What can happen when countries work together – on Covid AND climate change


“This is a crystal-clear example of the scale, and sheer speed at which the global community can tackle crises when we combine political will with business ingenuity and public mobilisation.” The Prince of Wales at G7 2021

If you had been following the G7 Talks held at Cornwall over the last week, you’d be aware that apart from discussions around the Covid pandemic and naturally the vaccination issues, you would have also heard a lot of talk around the other more, long term crisis – climate change and the environment.

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, used his speech to emphasise to the G7 leaders that they need to “display the same sense of urgency in tackling climate change as they showed in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.” He added that the Covid-19 pandemic had shown what a “truly borderless crisis looks like.” His sting came at the end of his speech when he pointed out “Of course, we did not fully see Covid coming. Yet climate change and biodiversity loss represents a borderless crisis, the solutions to which have been argued about and postponed for far too long.”

Many other leaders added their voices on this issue including US President Joe Biden, proclaiming that “America is back at the table” referring to his predecessor Donald Trump’s disinterest in climate change. Leaders appeared to agree this is a crucial decade that will determine the world’s future, even its very existence.

There was even a vision laid out by G7 ministers for a net zero world (where all greenhouse gases emitted are removed from the atmosphere). They also talked about taking a green approach to everything from the economic recovery from the pandemic to the way new infrastructure is built in the developing world. But here in Africa what does this mean for us?

Africa – real promises or talking heads?

“This story changes in the municipalities in rural areas. Here most people rely on water from a borehole, water tank or often a river. I wouldn’t even trust water that came out of a tap in these areas and there’s a very simple explanation – a complete lack of technical expertise and a failure in the maintenance of their water and sewage infrastructures.

“The guilt is also shared here by industry, food processing plants or mining industry’s acid drainage. Sewage plus the effluent from these industries is going into our rivers and the sad thing is the technology is there to avoid and improve these situations but it’s not being taken up.”

Like his colleague Professor Cloete, Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx has spent the last 16 years finding ways to counteract these problems. “There are regulations governing all these issues, but regulatory compliance has been allowed to erode with people obtaining tenders without complying with the strict national frameworks that are in place. Trust is firmly gone in citizen’s minds. Too many people wake up to the reality of wondering if the water they drink will make them sick today,” explains Rodrigues.

Affecting young lives

Last week also saw the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change getting together virtually. As chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa talked of the importance of speaking “with one clear voice to emphasise the primacy of multilateralism and to express our unwavering support for the full implementation of the UN Climate Change Convention and its Paris Agreement.” But can we put our trust in these words?

Can they take this regional unity forward into local effort when our own local governments are battling to supply basic resources like water and sanitation, let alone work on climate-saving strategies?

According to Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx, “With this talk about a recovery from the current state of affairs globally, one of the critical pillars is entrepreneurial uptake, and unfortunately South African funding platforms to support early stage research and development, regulatory compliance and finally market entry are in disarray and tatters. This is largely due to the poor handling of these institutions that have cost the SA Government millions to build and brand since the early millennium. This comes down to a lack of trust and transparency, leading to no truthful communication between entrepreneurs, funders, strategic alliances and generally interested parties.”