23 April 2012
Universities and colleges that tackle the “green” challenge will better serve their students while helping Africa take leadership on climate change, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said at the launch of the African Green Campus Initiative.
Speaking at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Saturday, Nzimande called on the country’s university and college leaders to sign the Climate Change Commitment Pledge, and so help build on the legacy of the COP 17 climate change summit held in Durban in December.
Helping colleges, universities to ‘go green’
Colleges and universities, he said, could help provide students with the skills needed to address climate change and allow them to benefit from the economic opportunities that arose from the solutions they helped develop.
The Department of Higher Education and Training will be supporting the initiative by reducing energy consumption at colleges and universities through recycling, encouraging students to use bicycles and buses, and conducting consumption audits.
It would also look at structuring curricula to include more focus on sustainability, at retro-fitting and creating energy-efficient buildings, and at encouraging universities to procure more “green” products and services.
Nzimande said environmental education was very important, adding that the department was looking at introducing a foundation programme through Further Education and Training (FET) colleges to help students with poor maths and science marks, and that this should also include environmental studies.
The minister said environmental science as an academic discipline also needed to be strengthened.
Car-pooling to reduce carbon emissions
Some universities have already embarked on the initiative – UCT started its own Green Campus Initiative in 2007.
Nzimande said the UCT initiative was started in the university’s botany department but soon grew to a campus-wide one, with projects in recycling including waste at residences, the organisation’s first UCT Green Week, and the use of car-pooling to cut down on carbon emissions.
“This initiative at UCT is an example of what can be done when there is energetic leadership and commitment.”
He conceded that initiatives such as energy-efficient buildings were more difficult to attain, but said his department was currently looking at proposals for infrastructure funding at universities for the current and coming financial years, and that “green” building was one of the key criteria in the approval of new projects.
The African Green Campus Initiative was created and is being funded by the Southern Africa chapter of the Association of College and University Housing Officers International (Acuho-I-Sac) in collaboration with African Compass and PD Naidoo and Associates.
The Department of Higher Education and Training, as well as the Department of Environmental Affairs, are both supporting the initiative.
Students ‘genuinely interested’
African Green Campus Initiative ambassodor Richard Parker said that, while students were often more concerned with passing their courses – or with where the next party was – than with going green, there was in fact genuine support and interest in green initiatives among them.
African Green Campus Initiative national committee member Sammy Ellie, from the the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), said students had indicated in a survey conducted at the university that they would participate more in green initiatives if there were incentives and competitions in place.
NMMU students had been running various green initiatives on waste management and had also signed a green pledge, Ellie said. The university had also helped Eastern Cape farmers to grow Spekboom which, once planted, could be traded for carbon credits.