As South Africa tries to develop an urgent economic recovery programme, it is important that the new economy be resilient in the face of climate change.
This was according to President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his weekly column to the nation.
He said a climate-resilient economy was vital in protecting jobs, ensuring sustainable industries, preserving natural resources and ensuring food security.
As part of government’s response to climate change, Cabinet approved the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy last week, which focuses on a reduction in carbon emissions (mitigation strategies) and preparing society for the effects of climate change (adaption strategies).
“As the Paris Agreement comes fully into force this year, we are committed to meeting our international responsibilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One of the key instruments for this, the Climate Change Bill, is currently under consideration in NEDLAC. We will also be establishing the Presidential Climate Change Commission to coordinate our national response and implementing the carbon tax to encourage companies to reduce their emissions,” said Rampahosa.
While global lockdowns have forced industrial and human activities to stop, these are now resuming, and will once again impact the environment.
Ramaphosa said unless action was taken, climate change could set off continual states of disaster for years to come.
He has extended an invitation to the private sector, civil society and communities to work with government on adaption strategies.
South Africa’s trading partners are considering a move to ‘carbon border taxes', which will exclude products from countries violating their climate change agreements.
“We have already made significant advances in the waste and recycling economies. Looking ahead, the Hydrogen SA initiative has built local expertise for the hydrogen economy over a decade, with projects under way to support local manufacturing of fuel cell components. This supports the beneficiation of platinum group metals. The hydrogen economy, when linked to renewable energy, can also position South Africa as a global player in the many applications of green hydrogen,” said Ramaphosa.
He also pointed out that infrastructure development and local production could be by-products of climate adaption in areas such as smart grids, e-mobility, smart water and sanitation solutions, ecological infrastructure and broadband connectivity.
Ramaphosa said South Africa could be a significant global player, drawing on green funding sources and instruments, as South Africa currently had programmes that support the development of new green industries and greening existing initiatives.
He said as the country rebuilt its economy from the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change must stay top of mind.
“Far from being an ‘added liability’ focused solely on issues of compliance, climate change adaptation is an opportunity to quicken the pace towards a sustainable economy that is just and inclusive. We need to act now, guided by a common strategy, to combat climate change and build a new, resilient economy,” Ramaphosa said.