Feb 01, 2013
Call made to fully integrate ecological investment into National Development PlanBack
Agriculture|Natal|Africa|CoAL|Development Bank Of South Africa|Environment|Finance|Health|Industrial|Industrial Development Corporation|Mining|Paper|Projects|Renewable Energy|Renewable-Energy|Resources|Storage|Sustainable|Technology|Water|Africa|South Africa|Indian Institute|South African National Biodiversity Institute|Ecological Infrastructure|Ecosystem Services|Energy|Human-made Infrastructure|Maintenance|Manufacturing|Natural Infrastructure|Service|Services|Tangible Services|Environmental|Anthea Stevens|David Jarvis|Haripriya Gundimenda|Infrastructure|Kuben Naidoo|Ndileka Mohapi|Wadzi Mandivenyi|Operations|South Africa
For this reason, experts are calling for an institutionalised acknowledgment of the services acquired from South Africa’s ecological infrastructure and for this to be included in the National Development Plan (NDP) and the country’s growth and development policies.
A concept familiar to those in the biodiversity and environmental management sector, but somewhat unknown beyond it, ecological infrastructure refers to natural ecosystems that deliver tangible services to people and underpins sustainable socioeconomic development.
Unpolluted mountain catchment areas, rivers, grasslands, wetlands, coastal dunes and natural habitat nodes and corridors that form a network of interconnected structural landscape elements are examples of ecological infrastructure, the value of which is seldom captured in market transactions and remains largely unacknowledged.
The 'Green Jobs Report', a paper compiled jointly by the Industrial Development Corporation, the DBSA and research body the Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies states that, while in certain instances there may have been some economic gains associated with the loss of biodiversity – such as growth in the agriculture, fisheries, mining and forestry sectors – the loss of biodiversity is also associated with material costs that are not always fully considered.
“When we seek to increase investment in this natural infrastructure and the environment as a whole, it must be done with a view to link it to society. While it may cost more, the long-term financial, social and health benefits of investing in it make it an essential consideration for the national development agenda,” explains National Planning Commission secretariat member Kuben Naidoo.
While most stakeholders, including the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), are in agreement that ecological infrastructure can and should play a greater role in the NDP, difficulties have emerged around exactly how this should be achieved.
The NDP will see the roll-out of R4-trillion in infrastructure investment over the next 15 years, with R3.7-trillion allocated to strategic integrated projects, which may include dedicated ecosystem-preservation initiatives.
During a recent debate organised last year by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi) consensus emerged that there needed to be stronger evidence of the benefits of investment, particularly around job creation, service delivery support, ecological-damage aversion and economic contribution.
Key elements of ecological infrastructure – catchments, corridors or tracts of natural vegetation – are often located in rural areas and this fact, coupled with the restoration or maintenance of this infrastructure, may contribute to the diversification of local livelihood alternatives and the strengthening of economic sectors such as sustainable farming and ecotourism.
While research in this field is expanding, further information and evidence will also be required to firm up the argument for institutionalised ecological investment, which can them be fed into political and planning processes.
More Work Needed
DEA biodiversity specialist monitoring and services chief director Wadzi Mandivenyi adds that the recognition of biodiversity as a public good is critical to its inclusion in the national development agenda and that an ongoing challenge remains the negotiation of a sustainable balance between environmental protection and the country’s economic and social development imperatives.
Several State policy approaches to the enhancement of ecological infrastructure investment and preservation are currently under development and include environmental fiscal reforms, such as innovative tax models and fiscal incentives, as well as draft policy on biodiversity offset mechanisms and the positioning of South Africa as a biodiversity economy in the global market.
In addition, national discussions around the establishment of innovative financing schemes for the payment of ecosystem services (PES) by the private sector is gaining traction as a viable source of funding for ecological preservation initiatives.
The objective of the State-sanctioned, DBSA-implemented Green Fund is to lay the foundation for the transition of the South African economy to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and climate-resilient development path delivering high-impact economic, environmental and social benefits.
“PES is an incentive-based approach to protect ecosystem services by compensating landowners or managers who adopt practices that are favourable to an ecosystem,” explains Indian Institute of Technology Associate Professor Haripriya Gundimenda in a report by global ecosystem initiative The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity.
“Simply put, those who use ecosystem services pay those who provide them and when providers are compensated, conservation becomes more attractive,” she says.
The PES includes a wide variety of services, including water flows to carbon sequestration and storage, biodiversity protection, landscape beauty, salinity control and soil erosion prevention.
Stakeholders are encouraged, through incentives, to conserve or engage in less-environmentally damaging activities on a voluntary basis.
Indicative of such environmental management schemes is their vast job-creation potential, which is perhaps where the alignment of environmental preservation efforts with national development goals are most evident.
This potential is evident in established and well-lauded South African conservation and ecosystem restoration programmes, such as the Working for Water Programme, which is considered an example of international best practice in the conservation and rehabilitation of ecosystems and their biodiversity.
The Working for Water Programme, initiated in 1995, is a multidepartmental initiative administered by the DEA and aims to tackle the issue of invasive plant species threatening local water networks, while also providing work for thousands of previously unemployed individuals, with a long-term view to create more than 100 000 jobs.
In addition, the report suggests that there is potential to enhance the programme through the extension of the value chain to include the manufacturing of sustainable biomass fuel.
Moreover, the mainstreaming of such programmes and new biodiversity management models and initiatives into major production sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, urban development and coal mining, may increase their likelihood of success.
A bioregional and ecosystem programme that is currently working towards this goal of integrating biodiversity objectives into South Africa’s production sectors is the Grasslands Programme.
This initiative aims to influence policy, support its implementation, pilot payments-for-ecosystem-services projects and promote knowledge sharing and awareness with a view to sustaining the country’s grasslands biome – a suite of ecosystem services that underpins livelihoods and the major production sectors at the heart of South Africa’s economy.
The grasslands biome is the second largest biome in South Africa, covering 29% of South Africa and eight provinces, including Gauteng, Limpopo, the Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, North West and the Northern Cape.
Grassland Programme director Anthea Stevens adds that, owing to the overlap of industry and ecologically sensitive areas, integrated development planning, with cooperation among industry, labour, government and environmental interests is critical and must be accompanied by the realisation by all parties that trade-offs are inevitable.
The programme is operating in collaboration with major economic sectors to incorporate biodiversity goals into their corporate policies.
In addition, market-level initiatives to direct the development footprint away from high-priority biodiversity areas and the incentivising of green production practices are being developed with partners in the Grasslands Programme, while biodiversity stewardship initiatives in strategic development areas are aimed at preserving key biodiversity on privately owned land.
“With less than 2% of its area formally conserved, the grasslands biome is identified as a priority area in need of conservation intervention. Much of the remaining biodiversity is, however found in production landscapes on private or communal land. It is, therefore, essential to work with these sectors as custodians of land to ensure the ongoing delivery of benefits and services to communities and the economy,” she says.
Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter
To subscribe email firstname.lastname@example.org or click here
To advertise email email@example.com or click here
Other Economy News
Recent Research Reports
Automotive 2016: A review of South Africa's automotive sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Automotive 2016 Report provides an overview of South Africa’s automotive industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into local demand and production, vehicle imports and exports, investment and competitiveness in the sector, as well...
Energy Roundup – April 2016 (PDF Report)
The April 2016 roundup covers activities across South Africa for March 2016 and includes details of a North Gauteng High Court Judge’s dismissal of a court application to postpone the 9.4% electricity tariff increase, which the National Energy Regulator of South...
Electricity 2016: A review of South Africa's electricity sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Electricity 2016 report provides an overview of South Africa’s electricity sector, focusing on State-owned power utility Eskom and independent power producers, electricity planning, transmission, distribution and the theft thereof, besides other issues.
Energy Roundup – March 2016 (PDF Report)
The March 2016 roundup covers activities across South Africa for February 2016 and includes details of the Department of Energy’s plans to announce the preferred bidders for the first tranche of the coal independent power producer procurement programme; the Council...
Steel 2016: A review of South Africa's steel sector (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Steel 2016 Report examines South Africa’s steel industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the global steel market and and particularly into South South Africa’s steel sector, including production and consumption, main...
Construction 2016: A review of South Africa's construction industry (PDF Report)
Creamer Media’s Construction 2016 Report examines South Africa’s construction industry over the past 12 months. The report provides insight into the business environment; key participants; local demand; geographic diversification; corporate activity; black economic...
This Week's Magazine
The two spent-fuel pools at Eskom’s 1 800 MW Koeberg nuclear power station, in the Western Cape, will be full by 2018, increasing the urgency on the State-owned utility to begin pursuing alternative storage options. Koeberg has, over the past 32 years, accumulated a...
South Africa lacks the skills necessary to implement the government’s plan to build 9.6 GWe of new nuclear energy capacity, warns nuclear-qualified Quality Strategies International CEO David Crawford. “Apart from the concern about the affordability of the programme,...
Cybersecurity multinational Check Point has released its latest 700-series cybersecurity systems for small businesses, which draw on its international threat intelligence to provide up-to-date cybersecurity, says Check Point South Africa country manager Doros...
Daimler Trucks and Buses Southern Africa (DTBSA) saw a marked slip in new-vehicle sales in 2015 compared with 2014, with sales dropping from 5 897 units to 5 300 units. The decline came as the South African new truck and bus market declined from 31 558 units in 2014...
Group of 20 (G-20) economies threatened to penalise havens that don’t share information on their banking clients after the leak of the Panama Papers provoked a global uproar over tax evasion. The G-20 will consider “defensive measures” against financial centers and...