Time for re­flec­tion, not cel­e­bra­tion

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

Ta­bane is au­thor of Lets Talk Frankly and host of Power Per­spec­tive on Power FM 98.7. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @JJTa­bane

TO­DAY’S World En­vi­ron­ment Day Cel­e­bra­tions around the world have been damp­ened by the US’s un­der­min­ing of the Paris Agree­ment. It is clear that the world will have to save to­mor­row de­spite the US, even though it is the big­gest cul­prit of car­bon emis­sions in the world.

The ques­tion is what is our own coun­try do­ing to be at the fore­front of util­is­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and the op­por­tu­ni­ties it pro­vides, to save to­mor­row to­day. The new buzz­word of rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion has to ap­ply to what can be termed the green rev­o­lu­tion. Grow­ing the green econ­omy will re­quire noth­ing less than a rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion.

The sub­ject of global warm­ing is well known. Over the years many cam­paigns have been em­barked upon to raise lev­els of aware­ness of the risk that in­creased lev­els of green­house gases are caus­ing to the fu­ture of the planet.

The UN Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change has ral­lied na­tions since 1995 to ad­dress the im­pact of cli­mate change. It was only dur­ing the Paris Con­fer­ence in 2015 that mem­ber states made progress and made com­mit­ments to deal with green­house gas emis­sion mit­i­ga­tion, adap­ta­tion and fi­nance aimed at en­cour­ag­ing fos­sil fuel divest­ment.

This was the world’s first com­pre­hen­sive cli­mate agree­ment – a clear in­di­ca­tion that the world has not fully em­braced a green rev­o­lu­tion. The at­ti­tude of the US to­wards this agree­ment fur­ther un­der­lines this ig­no­rance.

While com­mit­ments have been made be­fore, many coun­tries have not heeded this as an ur­gent call. The change in at­ti­tude to­wards turn­ing to green and cleaner forms of en­ergy has been very slow. A big part of this is that when you are call­ing for rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion, you must be will­ing to al­low the sta­tus quo to die, if need be.

This is the part that has been a chal­lenge to many na­tions be­cause the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try is big and many play­ers and coun­tries de­pend on oil pro­ceeds. Most world economies are highly de­pen­dent upon fos­sil fu­els. While we are on a witch hunt for white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, cli­mate change is putting our chil­dren’s fu­ture at risk.

Any sus­tained call for a green rev­o­lu­tion has ma­jor im­pli­ca­tions for these big com­pa­nies and oil-pro­duc­ing na­tions.

It will take bold gov­ern­ments and pri­vate sec­tors to ad­mit to no longer be­ing happy to re­port merely to meet­ing green­house emis­sions lev­els, but to have the de­ter­mi­na­tion to elim­i­nate them as much as is pos­si­ble.

This bold call to elim­i­nate the use of fos­sil fu­els will open our world to new pos­si­bil­i­ties and it has the po­ten­tial to cre­ate new in­dus­tries, in­clud­ing in the most ru­ral of com­mu­ni­ties.

It is un­for­tu­nate that South Africa has lagged behind badly in this re­gard.

Ac­cord­ing to Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs Edna Molewa, South Africa is still im­ple­ment­ing the first phase of the green­house gas emis­sion mit­i­ga­tion sys­tem and it still needed to al­lo­cate car­bon bud­gets to com­pa­nies that were sig­nif­i­cant emit­ters of green­house gases. South Africa has also not yet fi­nalised the na­tional cli­mate change adap­ta­tion strat­egy.

Part of the rea­son South Africa has also not moved quickly on this sub­ject is be­cause of how much fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies are con­tribut­ing to the econ­omy. The World Sum­mit on Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, where the Jo­han­nes­burg pro­gramme of ac­tion was adopted for these things to oc­cur, was held 17 years ago.

At that global gath­er­ing, many com­pa­nies made com­mit­ments but they now want to turn them­selves into ex­perts on re­new­able en­ergy and de­ter­mine the pace of trans­form­ing green economies. This mo­tive is purely to safe­guard their prof­its and has con­trib­uted to rais­ing the costs of cleaner en­ergy, making it a chal­lenge for mass adap­ta­tion.

Quite frankly, there is a need for re­newed po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship on the ques­tion of the causal link be­tween so-called rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion and the green rev­o­lu­tion. I be­lieve one of the so­lu­tions to trans­form­ing our econ­omy is to em­brace a green rev­o­lu­tion in or­der to move us away from de­pen­dency on the few pe­tro­leum com­pa­nies that have mo­nop­o­lised the in­dus­try and away from Eskom, whose woes con­tinue to be a bur­den to the na­tion.

The re­cent vi­sion­less ac­tion by the Eskom lead­er­ship was the blow­ing of hot air on the is­sue of re­new­able en­ergy and an il­lit­er­ate hos­til­ity against in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers just be­cause load shed­ding has been tem­po­rar­ily averted.

While it has be­come fash­ion­able for our politi­cians to talk about rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion and de­vel­op­ing town­ship economies it seems they have few prac­ti­cal ideas to bring this to fruition.

Let’s imag­ine for a mo­ment that the gov­ern­ment de­cided to move all town­ships and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties from the Eskom grid and pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive of ei­ther so­lar or wind en­ergy. This would mean these so­lar power sta­tions would need to come closer to com­mu­ni­ties, thereby in­creas­ing jobs closer to where peo­ple live.

The vast amount of land around com­mu­ni­ties can also be used to grow agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and man­u­fac­tur­ing plants for bio­fu­els could be set up, again cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment where peo­ple live. This must be fol­lowed up by en­sur­ing that our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems are aligned to na­tional pri­or­i­ties, thereby de­vel­op­ing skills to main­tain and even in­no­vate be­yond the cur­rent old en­ergy tech­nol­ogy.

Once one key eco­nomic driver is in place in one town­ship, it would also cre­ate other op­por­tu­ni­ties and in­cen­tives for in­vest­ment. This will en­sure that the mil­lions that have been pumped into Eskom, for ex­am­ple, go to­wards cre­at­ing a new model.

This will re­quire vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship that will not be com­fort­able to re­port, 20 years since cli­mate change be­came a con­cern, that they are only im­ple­ment­ing the first phase and have not fi­nalised an adap­tive strat­egy. This is a lead­er­ship that does not have in­ter­ests in com­pa­nies but is mostly in­ter­ested in the de­vel­op­ment of the peo­ple of South Africa.

The re­al­ity is that Eskom has firmly mod­elled it­self as a cash cow of old tech­nol­ogy, cre­at­ing no in­cen­tive among the po­lit­i­cal elite to con­sider rapid di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of our en­ergy mix. No won­der the big­gest idea for an al­ter­na­tive is the ill-con­sid­ered nu­clear deal that has al­ready been red-flagged by the courts.

Go­ing green is not a pipe dream; other coun­tries like Den­mark have made de­ci­sions to switch the to­tal en­ergy sup­ply (elec­tric­ity, mo­bil­ity, and heat­ing and cool­ing) to 100% re­new­able en­ergy by 2050.

In Africa, coun­tries have em­braced re­new­able en­ergy more ea­gerly than we have in South Africa. Part of the rea­son is they never had Eskom cor­rup­tion bag­gage hang­ing around their necks.

So, is there much to cel­e­brate on World En­vi­ron­ment Day? There is a lot to pon­der but our an­swer does not lie in the mercy of the world su­per­pow­ers but in what we can do with our wealth of nat­u­ral re­sources.

GO­ING GREEN: En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs min­is­ter, Edna Molewa at­tends a me­dia brief­ing. There is not much to cel­e­brate on World En­vi­ron­ment Day, says the writer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.