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Oct 14, 2011

Climate policy to map out transition to low-carbon economy

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Minister Edna Molewa discusses the National Climate Change Response Policy and the need to align trade and climate change policies. Editing: Lionel da Silva.
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South Africa’s National Climate Change Response Policy, which was approved by Cabinet this week, would help the country map out a socioeconomic transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy and society, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa said on Friday.

The policy would seek to balance the objectives of job creation, economic growth, environmental sustainability and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

“Many criticise that our key policies are being dominated by other underlying objectives, such as employment for example. It would be a grave mistake to approach any new policy only in terms of reducing the country’s carbon footprint. Hence a balanced and mainstream approach is needed for the benefit of all South Africans,” Molewa told Engineering News Online on the sidelines of the DBSA’s Greening Infrastructure Programmes in South Africa conference in Midrand.

The Minister said that the policy would not seek to unilaterally establish targets for industry and government departments in terms of the levels of CO2 emissions, as such a process required extensive consultation between all stakeholders.

She said the framework of the policy also took into consideration the country’s 20-year Integrated Resource Plan.

Molewa said the department would continue to further engage all stakeholders on the implementation process of the strategy outlined in the policy.

Further, Molewa said that trade and climate change policies were "two sides of the same coin” and that their alignment was inevitable.

“But any move towards a green economy should not impose trade barriers especially for emerging economies.”

She added that market-based policy measures, such as an escalating carbon tax to price carbon and internalising the external costs of climate change would be implemented.

“This will drive the diversification of our energy mix, and implement energy efficiency measures and investments in new and cleaner technologies and industries,” Molewa explained.

“Greening the South African economy represents a critical lever for bringing about the structural transformation needed for a more equitable and inclusive economy.”

Molewa called for public sector finance institutions and private developers to implement more integrated and environmentally appropriate development with regard to retrofits, new developments, infrastructure development and ecosystem maintenance.

While local content and innovation would be key drivers of the country’s climate change policy and the so-called green economy, Molewa acknowledged that this could only be successful if markets for innovation actually existed and could be sustainable.

The Minister was open about the need for government to fund institutions to the level that it should to enable the capacity to drive research and development.

“Over the past few years, government funding has been declining and this needs to change to ensure that the South Africa’s innovation and technology development capabilities are not eroded.”
 

Edited by: Mariaan Webb
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