WWF South Africa Roundtable on Climate Action finds common cause
‘Clean energy in every home’ was embraced by stakeholders attending the meeting as the guiding objective for designing a just transition to sustainable energy, the core imperative for South Africa’s response to climate change.
“This is a call for climate action at the national level, which is essential to achieving sustainable development locally, as well as to maintaining credibility as a progressive player in international negotiations,” said WWF’s Climate Change Programme Manager, Richard Worthington.
“Whatever terms we use: sustainable, equitable, green, low-carbon, climate-friendly or simply risk-averse, it is clear our development pathway must finally break from the apartheid legacy of energy-intensive growth enriching a minority by plundering our natural capital.”
Representatives from unions, business, government and NGOs convened to consider strategies to drive elaboration of a ‘low-carbon action plan’, consistent with the mitigation commitment President Zuma announced going into last year’s UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen. There was a collective commitment to unlocking the full range of public benefits that could be achieved, should South African seek to realise the national potential for competitive positioning in the global growth of clean energy industries.
“Continuing with business-as-usual will be fatal for our economy. This was the key finding of government’s Long Term Mitigation Scenarios process,” notes Worthington.
“We agreed on the need for urgent action to elaborate the resolution expressed by Cabinet to ‘…structurally transform the economy by shifting from an energy-intensive to a climate-friendly path as part of a pro-growth, pro-development and pro-jobs strategy.’”
“We should be able to showcase some operational components at international negotiations in Mexico at the end of this year.”
As the host of the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC at the end of 2011, South Africa will be under increasing scrutiny, particularly as a member of the BASIC grouping (with Brazil, India and China) that is increasingly influential in efforts to achieve a multilateral agreement. The expectations of COP16 in Mexico will probably only be clarified in the inter-sessional meetings in June, but all parties acknowledge that progress on mobilising large-scale public finance is crucial. A UN panel of experts, which includes Minister Trevor Manuel, will have its first meeting shortly.
“The Roundtable agreed on the urgency to embrace the opportunities and challenges arising from the limited carbon budget that South Africa will need to work within, while achieving our development objectives, including ensuring clean energy in every home that remains affordable for the next generation,” says WWF National Climate Change Campaigner, Louise Naudé.
Glen Mpufane, from the National Union of Mineworkers, expressed the broad concern within organised labour that national orientation to a ‘green economy’ could result in workers being moved into low-wage, non-unionised employment. However, a just transition is fully realisable provided that a structured adjustment programme is developed with meaningful stakeholder participation.