Nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) on Thursday released the findings of new research, which describes South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon, sustainable and inclusive future as “stuck in first gear”, with ambitious policies but slow implementation.
The ‘South Africa Green Economy Barometer’, published by South African think tanks, the African Centre and Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), supported by the Green Economy Coalition (GEC), notes that the South African economy remains locked into ‘brown’ energy systems and investments, the benefits of which are limited to a well-off minority.
As such, the NGOs rate South Africa’s green transition at only five out of ten.
The report finds that 90% of the electricity generated in South Africa is still based on coal-fired power plants and the economy remains reliant on fossil-fired and carbon-intensive industries which are failing to provide jobs.
It also notes that serious institutional and governance failures have allowed systemic problems like the Cape Town drought to go almost unchecked.
“More than half a decade on from the world-leading 2011 Green Economy Accord and the 2012 National Development Plan (NDP), which together set out to transform South Africa into a low-carbon, climate resilient and just society, the country remains worryingly inefficient, unsustainable and unequal.”
“South Africa is not yet grasping the opportunities of a green economy. It finds itself at a crossroads, where it needs to either fully embrace a green economy trajectory, or continue to grapple with the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation,” says African Centre founder and CEO Dr Mao Amis.
“Embracing a green economy trajectory primarily means adopting a people-centred approach in support of small business and all fringes of society, to embark on a just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and electric mobility,” adds TIPS senior economist Gaylor Montmasson-Clair.
The report does laud the fact that urban transport systems and manufacturing are becoming less resource intensive, and that there are more protected and conservation areas in South Africa than ever before.
Moreover, it notes that the country has pioneered some key innovations in sustainable finance in recent years.
However, “South Africa’s ecological footprint continues to exceed the country’s biocapacity and key biodiversity hotspots remain in a dire state.”
Additionally, there is little awareness of the value of nature or natural capital in government decision-making, and marginalised people and the informal sector are too often forgotten in national efforts to grow and green the economy.
The report suggests that if the transition is to take off, the country must resolve the gridlock on energy and transport in the country, prioritise support to small enterprises focusing on access to finance and capacity, and step up efforts to conduct full ‘wealth accounts’ for South Africa that assess and value the full cultural and societal benefits of the country’s stocks of human and natural capital.