Climate change
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Global carbon emissions are spiralling out of control with 2018 tracking at an all-time high – dashing our hopes for a sustainable answer to climate change threats.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2018/12/13 – subscribe today

How governments, corporates and individuals react to climate change today will have far-reaching consequences from which there are no solutions.

This doomsday scenario has intensified as the anticipated collective voice on climate change action at the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) has, sadly, not materialised. Initiatives to date have largely been isolated to obvious and immediate solutions in various sectors.

For instance, the role of renewables in overcoming the energy sector’s reliance on fossil fuels, which has had decades of adverse effects on the climate, deserves its place in the sun. However, taking a closer look uncovers a dirty secret.

As solar photovoltaic panels near their end of life, become obsolete, or the cells become damaged, their efficiency is reduced. What happens with these panels, which contain dangerous chemical components, when they are discarded?

On the whole, they find their way to landfill sites where they eventually release toxic waste into the ground. At the rate at which solar modules are becoming more affordable – from micro- to utility-scale – installations are expected to increase rapidly over the next decade. This ferocious growth in manufactured and installed solar panels spawns a worrisome hazardous waste management burden.

Does your country have dedicated national programmes or requirements to dispose of renewables’ waste safely?

Temperatures continue to rise with dire consequences to every aspect of our lives including potable water sources and agriculture, which are also vulnerable to toxic waste. It is therefore essential that in our efforts to mitigate climate change that our actions do not result in extenuating circumstances.

The solutions we motivate and push ahead with must take a cradle-to-grave approach so that it does not unwittingly add to the challenge or create new ones.

Read the previous note from the editor here.