Climate change on KZN’s agenda
KWAZULU-NATAL Premier Sihle Zikalala says there is a need to prioritise economic development in a manner that would not be harmful to the environment and lead to challenges as a result of climate change.
Zikalala was speaking at the inaugural sitting of the reconfigured KZN Climate Change and Sustainable Development Council held at the Durban ICC yesterday.
The structure is responsible for co-ordinating responses to climate change in the province and the event was attended by MECs, district mayors, academics, business representatives, traditional leaders and representatives of civil society formations.
The meeting focused on environmental sustainability, economic development, climate change and work done by the provincial government.
Speaking to The Mercury, Zikalala said the council had put in place priorities that sought to preserve the environment while ensuring economic growth.
“Among the issues that we are discussing in the meeting is how do we use issues that impact on climate change to boost the economy. That talks to the activation of economic sectors such as recycling and others.”
He said that they would also be looking at how they model industries, like agriculture, to be mindful of the climate emergency.
Zikalala further said that they had formed a partnership with all stakeholders, including the businesses, NGOs, and academia, to come together to work on climate change.
“We focused on climate change because it is known that we, as the province, have been affected by various disasters which have left many people homeless, while others lost their lives.”
During the Easter weekend in 2019, the province was declared a disaster area after more than 70 people were killed during devastating floods.
Zikalala said the floods also had a catastrophic effect on infrastructure. Veld fires and drought were also some of the challenges identified by Zikalala which occurred due to climate change.
“We have been moving from one challenge to the other. That is why we said let us resuscitate the council and have a clear programme which brings all of us as stakeholders into one synchronised programme of action.”
He added that industrial companies needed to be held accountable for pollution and emissions of gasses that impacted on people’s lives and the environment.
KZN Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Chief Director in Environmental Management Siphumelele Mowele said they wanted the council meetings to become a platform of engagement.
She said that the transition from the old ways of doing things to a low-emission economy was going to be very critical.
Mowele said it also had to be done in a manner that was inclusive, leaving no one behind.
“We don’t want to be solving a problem whilst we create another problem.
“There are so many interests here, including economic and environmental, thus this ongoing platform is going to bring everyone together, and make sure everyone has a voice. Whatever we come up with, is what we can all own and implement,” she said.