South Africa’s first Green Economy Summit ended with delegates calling for the development of green growth policies and regulations which support the development of clean technologies.
As part of the declaration, the 650 delegates – including international guests – resolved to put the brakes on carbon emissions and other forms of pollution that have proved to be a hurdle to green economy development. The summit, held in Sandton, ended on Thursday.
They also resolved to push for the diversification of energy sources and implementation of energy efficient programmes, crucial for ensuring green growth. The summit was organised by the Environmental Affairs Department and as such, the declaration commits the government, with the help of civil organisations and business, to implement a plan that would lead to a job intensive green economy.
Green economy to stimulate job creation
A transition to a green economy has been stated as one that could stimulate the much-needed job creation in the country. Both Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and his Environmental Affairs counterpart Buyelwa Sonjica earlier this week said the renewable energy industry could boost the government’s plans of halving unemployment by 2014.
Patel told delegates at the Summit on Tuesday that the green economy sector was capable of creating some 300 000 jobs over ten years. It is projected that the benefits, which includes health and pollution management, waste collection, disposal, and storage activities, could generate between R22 billion and R36 billion within the environmental sector and could potentially create 20 000 jobs by 2013. Green jobs have been defined as those jobs which reduce the environmental impact of enterprises and economic sectors, ultimately to levels which are sustainable.
The summit recognised that to achieve job creation, fundamental questions needed to be answered such as how the country’s macroeconomic policy would be realigned to meet the needs of green growth; the role of public expenditure and look at how the Department of Environmental Affairs will work with other stakeholders to ensure the successful transition to green economy.
“Today, the natural resource base of our planet is in danger, as indicated by many presenters in this Summit. This should be of concern to all if we want future generations to live in a healthy and fairer planet,” said Maggie Sotyu, chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on Environmental Affairs.
She said parliament will play a significant role in initiating and speeding up the process of greening the economy, especially in the form of new legislation and policy frameworks to facilitate the realisation of green economy in the country.
Sotyu said the impact of the global economic crisis propelled many developed and developing nations to put forward national and international policy responses and proposals for the way forward in terms of reforming the financial architecture and global economic governance.
“In light of the recent political developments, new threats and challenges, and the need to identify alternative development, strategies are needed to support key objectives,” she said.
Reducing transport carbon footprint
The summit declaration further touched on the role of the transport sector in ensuring that it reduces its carbon footprint through cost effective interventions including shifting freight from road to rail as well as passengers towards public transport. One delegate from Port Elizabeth even suggested the introduction of bicycle lanes on all of the country’s major roads to encourage the use of bicycles, something that is practiced in most European countries.
In a unity statement produced at the end of the conference, delegates committed to ensuring that the country’s growth path is resource sufficient, far less carbon intensive and more labour absorbing.
The meeting also drew attention to concerns that the current patterns of production and consumption may lead to unsustainable utilization and collapse of natural ecosystems which underpin social and economic growth.
Zuma supports new growth path
Addressing the summit on Tuesday, President Jacob Zuma committed government to embarking on a new growth path that will aim at creating jobs through green economy and climate friendly initiatives.
Zuma said renewable energy is becoming an increasingly viable alternative to the energy sources that fuelled the growth of the developed world. “But for Africa to make use of its abundant renewable energy sources, it needs substantial investment, skills, technology and greater economic integration,” he said.
Source: BuaNews, urbansprout.co.za, dfg.ca.gov, greencitizens.net,