‘Capacity building required if SA is to avert water crisis’

Engineering News, 25 February 2011

South African Institute of Civil Engineering water division chairperson Dr Chris Herold says that the county’s water crisis is not at this stage a result of demand outstripping supply, but a mismatch between water demand and supply, which is largely a man-made problem.

This is compounded by the fact that 30% to 40% of water is lost, which also raises the issue of efficient water use by all sectors.

Herold told the inaugural South African Water and Energy Forum (SAWEF) that role-players, such as the Department of Water Affairs, were losing expertise and institutional capacity at an alarming rate.

The SAWEF hopes to create space in which key players from all sectors can be brought together to engage with one another.

The organisation also wants to create a platform to support sustainable employment for the millions of unemployed people in South Africa.

“To solve the problem, we need to build essential capacity. We need political will, finances and capacity to address the problem,” said Herold.

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‘UNEP Year Book 2011: Emerging Issues in our Global Environment’

The 8th Edition of the UN Environment Programme flagship report, the UNEP Year Book 2011, examines global emerging issues and provides the latest environmental science. It also highlights major environmental events and developments over the past year, and presents the most recent data and indicator trends. The ocean has become a global repository for much of the waste we produce. Scientists are concerned that plastic debris in the ocean can transport toxic substances which may end up in the food chain, causing potential harm to ecosystems and human health. The Year Book also explores the wider implications of the use of phosphorus in food production. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient whose supply is limited. Since demand for fertilizer in agriculture rocketed in the 20th century, large amounts of phosphorus are flowing into the environment. New perspectives are also emerging on how biodiversity conservation can be integrated in forest management. Forests are receiving increasing attention, not least because of their role in climate change mitigation. Halting loss of forest biodiversity is essential if forests are to adapt to mounting pressures, including climate change and pest outbreaks. The Year Book’s overview of events and developments during 2010 shows how cutting edge science reveals new opportunities to mitigate climate change while improving air quality. Stimulated by technological innovation and green investments, renewable energy supply is growing rapidly. Continue reading

‘The heat is on’

Financial Mail, 24 February 2011

Climate change is an inconvenient truth, as former US vice-president Al Gore put it, but one that business and government ignore at their peril.

“We’re not just talking climate change, but major risks,” says Santam’s strategy unit head, Vanessa Otto-Mentz. The risks are many , ranging from food security to extreme weather events.

Driving climate change is global warming that “continues unabated”, warns US space agency Nasa , which reports that 2010 was the world’s hottest year on record, as was the past decade.

These changes can be attributed to emissions of greenhouse gases related to human activity, says Alec Joubert, director of climate consultancy Kulima Integrated Development Solutions. He adds that the outcome will depend on how much these emissions will grow or be cut. It is widely accepted that without major cuts the global average temperature will rise by up to 6°C by 2100.

The impact of climate change is already being felt in SA, says Deon Nel, a CSIR climate specialist. In the Western Cape’s Eden district, which includes Mossel Bay, George and Knysna, there has been a 2°C rise in average winter temperatures since 1940, he says. This is causing concern, in particular among hop farmers as it is affecting the crop’s growth. Elsewhere in the Western Cape, higher winter temperatures are causing the quality of deciduous fruit crops to deteriorate, says Otto-Mentz.

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A New Report:’Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication’

The new report,  “Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication”was launched on Monday, 21 February 2011.

The report sees a Green Economy as not only relevant to more developed economies but as a key catalyst for growth and poverty eradication in developing ones too, where in some cases close to 90 per cent of the GDP of the poor is linked to nature or natural capital such as forests and freshwaters.

It cites India, where over 80 per cent of the $8 billion National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which underwrites at least 100 days of paid work for rural households, invests in water conservation, irrigation and land development.

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‘Carbon tax design and schedule to be outlined in 2012 Budget’

Engineering News, 23 February 2011

The design features of a proposed carbon tax, as well as a schedule for its possible introduction, would be unveiled in the 2012 Budget, the National Treasury said in its 2011 Budget review.

However, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan did confirm that the existing levy on electricity generated from nonrenewable and nuclear energy sources would increase by 0,5c/kWh to 2,5c/kWh from April 2011.

But he said that the increase should not impact on electricity tariffs, as it had already been taken into account in the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s approved tariff structure for the period 2010 to 2013. Power prices in South Africa are set to rise by an average of 25% a year over the period.

The National Treasury released a discussion paper in December outlining three possible carbon tax models as part of government’s response to climate change and to commitments made internationally to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009, South Africa offered to reduce its GHG emissions by 34% by 2020 and by 42% by 2015, when compared with a trajectory that involve no interventions. The country is also due to host the next round of climate negotiations, or the 17th Conference of the Parties, in Durban from November 28 to December 9.

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‘Green economy needs 2% of every nation’s income, says UN’

The Guardian, 21 February 2011

The United Nations will call on Monday for 2% of worldwide income to be invested in the green economy, a move it says would boost jobs and economic growth.

The call is expected to be matched by statements of support for low-carbon investment from heads of state including President Barack Obama of the US and Hu Jintao of China, and several chiefs of multinational companies.

An investment of 2% of global GDP would more than pay for itself in the form of millions of new jobs, the development of new industries, health benefits from cleaner air, energy efficiency savings and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the UN is expected to say.

These findings are also backed up by a report to be published today by the German government, which warns that Europe will suffer continued low growth rates unless investment in green projects is increased. Raising the level of ambition in the EU’s climate targets would increase European GDP by up to $842bn, a 6% rise, and create up to 6m additional jobs across member states.

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‘Consulting firm warns against unintended consequences of SA carbon tax’

Engineering News, 16 February 2011

As South Africa grappled with the proposed introduction of a carbon tax, consultancy firm Africa International Advisors (AIA) has warned that carbon regulation, and in particular taxation, must not disadvantage South Africa economically, relative to other competing economies, given the country’s reliance on coal.

AIA director Tim Hough on Wednesday suggested options that he said would reduce actual greenhouse gas emissions, rather that just generate another tax revenue stream for the National Treasury, which could potentially prejudice South Africa’s competitiveness, and result in job losses.

Stakeholders were warned of unintended consequences as a result of imposing the current carbon tax proposals, and said that South Africa appeared to be taking an inordinate burden with respect to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitments.

Hough’s suggestion was that Eskom be excluded from paying carbon tax on current emissions or primary energy, as these costs would merely be passed on to the consumer. However, the utility should accelerate the diversification of its generating fleet − as reflected in the second Integrated Resource Plan − with major technical and financial support from the developed nations.

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