5 December 2011
South African President Jacob Zuma, addressing the World Climate Business Summit on Green Business Generation in Durban on Saturday, called on business to partner with the country and the continent in creating a “greener”, sustainable future.
To achieve this, Zuma said, African countries had to move from being producers of raw materials to building dynamic, competitive manufacturing sectors which processed minerals and agricultural products into consumer goods.
Zuma told the business sector that their interest in these talks indicated their understanding that climate change was more than just an environmental issue.
“New sources of growth and innovation, and new technologies and models for driving investment, are urgently needed to deliver long-term prosperity in a stable, sustainable and inclusive way. It is in this context that we promote a green economy and green growth.”
‘Long-term’ move to low-carbon economy
Zuma said the South African government was already implementing strategies geared towards cleaner technologies and the shift to a low-carbon future, guided by the recently adopted National Climate Change Response Policy.
“We are very mindful of the fact that South Africa finds itself in a situation in which it is both a high emitter of greenhouse gases, as well as a country extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” Zuma said. “We are the largest producer of electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, generating 90 percent of our electricity from coal.
“As a responsible global citizen, we remain fully committed to contribute our fair share to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Given South Africa’s developmental challenges, the country would continue to use fossil fuels in the short to medium term, while moving to a low-carbon economy over the long term, Zuma said.
Carbon, pollution, resource use ‘could be taxed’
With a greener economy in mind, South Africa was putting together some policy proposals that would have an impact on the business sector.
“These may include putting a price on carbon and other pollution, or on the over-exploitation of a scarce resource, through mechanisms such as taxes, natural resource charges or tradable permit systems.”
He said sustainable growth also had to include improved access to quality education and skills, bridging the digital divide so that the children of the poor could also gain access to the information and communication technology skills that were crucial in the modern economy.
“Meaningful economic transformation is therefore an integral part of our quest for a sustainable economy that responds to the impact of climate change … We emphasise this because developing green economies is not just about eco-efficiency but also about equity.”
Zuma was optimistic that Africa and many developing countries had exciting opportunities for green growth because of their abundant natural resources. This meant many initiatives could be pursued to protect the future, while not destroying industries and jobs.