By Jessie Taylor
Protecting our environmental wealth
Covid-19 and the resulting national lockdown have left economies around the world in a downturn. Like many other nations, South Africa has established a plan to facilitate economic recovery, and a key component of this plan is protecting the country’s natural wealth.
In November, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan would target a 3% average annual economic growth over the next decade.
The plan includes the details of a R13.8-billion investment into job creation of around 800,000 jobs and economic opportunities. A further R86.2-billion will be spent on employment creation over the next two years. In addition, a state infrastructure fund will provide R100-billion in finance, in the hopes of unlocking around a trillion rand in investment.
Climate change driving new sectors
But central to the post Covid-19 economic reconstruction and recovery programme is a focus on South Africa’s natural resources. Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister, Barbara Creecy, has unpacked the Green Stimulus Recovery Programme, which will contribute to equitable economic growth, provide employment to marginalised communities and grow economic sectors reliant on the environment without destroying it.
Under the Green Stimulus Recovery Programme, measures are being put in place to ensure the country contributes its fair share to the global climate change effort. This includes the establishment of a Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission, which will advise the government on an ambitious and just transition to a low-carbon economy and climate-resilient society.
A focus on reducing carbon emissions is front and centre for the South African government, with Ramaphosa recently announcing the government’s plan to reduce carbon emission target ranges a decade earlier than initially planned. The government also plans to generate more than 17 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030 and plans to have no new coal plants built after 2030. The aim is to have 80% of coal plants closed by 2050, with renewable energy sources supplying the bulk of electricity in the country.
Not only will the shift to renewable energy reduce the country’s impact on the environment, but it has the potential to create a significant number of jobs and grow supporting industries, in turn aiding economic recovery.
To facilitate the renewable energy sector’s development, several pieces of legislation have been developed under this programme, including the revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) recently released for public comment. This is expected to be finalised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November.
Other key legislation includes the country’s National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, finalised in 2020, and the Low Emissions Development Strategy. These will inform the country’s transition to a low-carbon, sustainable and climate-resilient development path. In addition, the Climate Bill is on its way through the Cabinet system in preparation for tabling later this year.
Waste management as a job creator
Alongside a shift to renewable energy, a key element of the Green Stimulus recovery plan is the circular economy. The circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources.
“The plan promotes waste recycling, renewable energy generation, revitalising our ecotourism and forestry sector, as well as the retrofitting of government buildings to improve climate resilience and save on water and energy consumption”, says Hon. Creecy.
Creecy emphasizes that a healthy environment must be one free from waste pollution and has committed to prioritising the implementation of the National Waste Management Strategy.
Plastic is the main focus in managing pollution, Creecy says. To this end, the focus of government efforts has been to decrease plastic waste and enhance the recycling of plastics. One of the ways the plan addresses this is through amended plastic carrier bag regulations. The new requirements for plastic carrier bags will require all products to contain 50% recycled content from 2023. This will increase to 100% by 2027.
“This will not only ensure circularity but will see product design taking the environment into consideration,” – Hon. Creecy.
The new requirements aim to ensure that household, industrial and commercial waste is diverted from landfills and instead used to bolster the product development and waste management sectors. The plan will also include the informal sector, such as waste reclaimers.
Under the same theme, marine litter is also an issue the government plans to address. As such the Source-to-Sea Programme will be expanded in 16 coastal districts with the target of creating a minimum of 1 600 work opportunities.
Not only does the Green Stimulus Recovery Programme aim to bring about real environmental change by reducing industry and consumers’ impact on the environment, but it also looks to create sustainable job opportunities. By investing in sectors such as renewable energy and waste management, the Green Stimulus Recovery Programme looks to drive economic growth while protecting the country’s natural resources.
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