As critical climate change negotiations kicked off in Durban, South Africa launched its Green Economy Accord, promising to create 300 000 new jobs and double the country’s energy generation capacity over the next 20 years.
Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel described the accord as one of the most comprehensive social pacts on green jobs in the world, and said the government was determined to make it work for the country.
“We realise that the shift from a coal-based economy to one that’s a more balanced, rounded green economy will have a cost-raising effect. But it also holds economic opportunities.’
Patel used the example of China, which he said had made enormous entrepreneurial mileage out of solar energy by embracing the technology. Five years ago, China was only just entering the “green economic space”. Yet, it is now the biggest manufacturers of solar energy components in the world.
He said South Africa wanted to manufacture components needed for green energy, which it would export into Southern Africa and other developing countries.
“If anything, green energy is going to create a big growth spurt for the South African economy,” he told a media briefing at the COP17 summit in Durban.
An area that the government wants to move into with vigour is the solar water-heating industry.
One of the commitments of the green accord, signed by government business and labour, is to install one million solar water-heating systems in South Africa by 2014.
Patel said the insurance industry would promote locally-manufactured solar water heaters to replace the 200 000 that are burst or damaged in South Africa every year.
The Industrial Development Corporation is to provide up to R25bn for investments in the green economy over the next five years, while the plan is that 80% of new jobs in the green sphere will go to young workers, who face high levels of unemployment.
Around 50 000 green jobs have been earmarked for the solar and wind energy industries.
South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa (pictured) says while the government is fully committed to “green” initiatives and an energy mix, it won’t be able to abandon coal completely.
“We need time to develop renewables until we have the adequate infrastructure,”
She said some industries, like mining, would continue to use coal.
Molewa said the Kusile and Medupi power stations would not spew out CO² as the old ones have done.
In a country report on South Africa’s focus on Green Growth, the World Bank has said South Africa is responsible for high carbon emissions. It also exports a lot of its coal. exports.
“South Africa’s carbon consumption is estimated to be around 40% lower than its production, the balance being net exports, mostly to developed countries, which tend to consume more carbon than they produce. This creates a risk for South Africa.”
While South Africa says it’s committed to tackling its own high carbon emissions, negotiations on how to lower them globally are fully underway in Durban.
Negotiators and their teams made their points in plenaries and hunkered down to tackle the obstacles blocking a deal on climate change. They are doing the groundwork for the delegations of cabinet ministers who will arrive this weekend for an intense few days of high-level negotiations.
Molewa called on industrialised countries to show their commitment to the Kyoto Protocol to limit CO² emissions. She said some countries had been stalling, saying they were wary of committing to the protocol, as long as the US and China have refused to sign up.
“They need to come on board and show leadership, as the developing countries have done. 90% of developing countries have pledged their support, showing that we are committed, responsible citizens.”
Canada and Japan have said they will not go for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Its current term runs out next year and developing countries in particular, are rallying to try to bring some of their reticent industrialised counterparts on board.
Molewa says South Africa would be one of many countries that would suffer if global temperatures rise.
“Should multilateral international action not effectively limit the average global temperature increase to below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the potential impacts on South Africa in the medium to long term are significant and potentially catastrophic.”