Climate change, public trusteeship and the tomorrows of the unborn

Authors Anél du Plessis

ISSN: 1996-2126
Affiliations: Professor of Law, North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus)
Source: South African Journal on Human Rights, Volume 31 Issue 2, 2015, p. 269 – 293


The impacts of climate change on human and ecological systems and the increasing volatility of life situations demand of scholars to critically evaluate governments’ protection of the natural resource base and the interests that communities have in a safe, healthy and preserved environment. It begs the question what the South African government must do as national ‘public trustee’ to protect the environmental interests and rights of unborn generations of South Africans. The recently adopted United Nations Secretary-General’s Report on Intergenerational Solidarity and the Needs of Future Generations reiterates the relevance of the focus on the environmental and other needs of future generations. This article considers how the government as public trustee ought to approach ‘climate-resilient development’ as provided for in the Climate Change Response White Paper to ensure a long-term response adequate to protecting the environmental interests and rights of the present and future generations.