Tasneem Essop, WWF SA's Climate Advocate, Moves from Social to Global Activism

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WHEN she was an activist, she fought for social justice against the powerful apartheid government. Today Tasneem Essop has moved her activism to the world stage, where she takes on an even more formidable opponent: the global fossil-fuelled economy.

In her new job with the South African branch of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), which she took up last month after resigning as Western Cape MEC for environment affairs, development planning and economic affairs, Essop will be part of an initiative that hopes to set the world on a path to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

The target is to cut emissions, by 2050, to 80% of what they were in 1990.

"That's the target we need to achieve if we are going to keep the average world temperature increase no higher than 2*C. If we don't get a deal, with everyone involved, the United States as well, then we are in serious trouble as people of this globe," Essop said yesterday.

She has no illusions as to how difficult it will be to achieve this in a world economy based on fossil fuels, which for centuries has externalised the costs to the environment and to society of burning coal and oil.

"It's a very complex matter, but it's exciting and challenging too. WWF is part of the Climate Action Network and we will be looking at what path we need to take to get that 80% to 90% reduction in emissions by 2050."

The work of WWF and other NGOs will be to strengthen South Africa's role within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). The UNFCC's Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets for 37 industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ends its first phase in 2012. …