19 May 2010
President Jacob Zuma has thrown his weight behind calls for “green” technologies and industries to help South Africa respond to climate change, adding that the government envisaged a new growth path involving job creation through environmentally friendly initiatives.
“Through our actions, we need to respond to the notion that there is a trade-off to be made between faster economic growth and the preservation of our environment,” Zuma said at a Green Economy Summit in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
“We must be able to prove that faster economic growth can be achieved alongside the sustainable management of our natural resources.”
He said South Africa, as the continent’s economic powerhouse, had a responsibility to ensure that its policies and economic activities contributed meaningfully to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
Preserving the environment
The three-day gathering, which brings together various organisations and independent climate experts, is the first to be organised by the government. It is being attended by more than 650 delegates, including invited international guests.
South Africa’s economy is the largest on the African continent, and since 1994 the country has managed to position itself as a global player among other emerging markets. But the country has also come under fire for its heavy reliance on conventional energy sources such as coal.
Zuma said renewable energy was becoming an increasingly viable alternative to the energy sources that fuelled the growth of the developed world.
“But for Africa to make use of its abundant renewable energy sources, it needs substantial investment, skills, technology and greater economic integration,” he said.
In pursuing faster economic growth and improved service delivery, South Africa needed to find innovative ways to ensure that its consumption and production patterns were sustainable.
“We look at this Green Economy Summit to describe a sustainable path for our country, bearing in mind our historical obligation to improve the living conditions of all South Africans, particularly the poor,” Zuma said.
‘Green economy’ path
Speaking earlier, Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said inputs from the summit would feed into the national plan and priority actions for a green economy path.
“It will start building national consensus on the green economy path as an innovative towards sustainable consumption and production. Our move towards a green economy is part of the country’s long-term plan to grow the economy while mitigating the effects of climate change,” Sonjica said.