Week that was – March 8 2009

Posted by Laura Grant on March 8, 2009
Posted in Green News

More than 700 delegates from government, business, labour, academia and civil society got together to discuss South Africa’s climate change policy this week in Midrand, north of Johannesburg. Designed to “translate political will and the best available scientific evidence into policy and action”, the summit was the start of a participatory process that will culminate in a policy White Paper on climate change by 2010 and a legislative, regulatory and fiscal package by 2012.

But first a draft document that will set out “slightly more than the skeleton” of a climate change policy will be produced by August This will be consulted widely and inform what South Africa takes into the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December.

Renewable energy and energy efficiency comprised a strong theme coming out of the conference. The minister of environmental affairs and tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, said in a statement that “early gains can be achieved by massively up-scaling our efforts in respect of energy efficiency and renewable energy”.

But the country’s energy mix was a hotly contested issue. Coal accounts for more than 90 percent of electricity at present – but Cabinet will have the final say on whether coal’s role in the energy mix will decrease. And more technical work and a policy process that allows all views to be expressed is needed before a Cabinet decision can be made, Joanne Yawitch, a deputy director-general in the department of environmental affairs and tourism, told the media.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said that acting now on climate change is an opportunity to overcome the global economic crisis by creating pro-poor jobs and sustainable green growth.

The impacts of climate change are already being felt in South Africa, the conference heard, so there needs to be a balance between adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation needs more attention and funding.

The minister of environmental affairs and tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, said that the summit far exceeded expectations. “I am encouraged by the strong resolve to meet the dual challenges of adaptation and mitigation by placing sustainable development and poverty eradication at the forefront. The strong consensus on making the transition to a climate resilient and low carbon economy and society will underpin our future work.”

A report from this week’s climate change conference said that Eskom may decide to build a solar thermal baseload plant later this year. Another developing country, China is about to start building its first solar thermal power station in Beijing this month, China Daily reports. The 1.5MW experimental station is expected to generate about 2.7-million kWh of electricity a year, enough to power at least 30,000 homes. The solar tower-type station, which will comprise 100 mirrors or heliostats which will redirect the suns rays to a receiver at the top of a 100m-high tower, will cost about 100-million yuan (R150-million). China plans to generate at least 150MW of power from solar thermal power stations by 2015, the report says. Full report

South Africa could get it’s third wind farm soon. According to a report in Engineering News, a 50MW wind farm has been proposed for the Western Cape town of St Helena Bay and the environmental impact assessment, which has reportedly been delayed for a year because of investor concerns, may start this month. David Chown of Genesis Eco-Energy, a Cape Town-based company said that once the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) announces its renewable energy feed-in tariffs, which it is expected to do at the end of this month, the company will be able to raise funding for the R850-million project. The 5.2MW Darling wind farm was officially launched last year and Eskom is building a 100MW wind farm in Koekenaap. All are in the Western Cape province. Full report

A new programme has been launched by the department of water affairs and forestry that will award municipalities with “Blue Drop Status” for having drinking water of excellent quality. If a town has Blue Drop status consumers will be secure in the knowledge that wastewater is managed and discharged in a sustainable, environmentally-acceptable manner, Bua News reports. Minister Lindiwe Hendricks said at the launch of the programme this week that towns would be able to use the prestigious Blue Drop Status to market themselves to both residents and tourists. She said assessments had been completed in various towns and their status would be made known soon.

Greenpeace Africa has called on the South African government not to allow two ships carrying plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel to enter its waters as they make their way from France to Japan. The shipment of about 1.8 tonnes of MOX fuel – enough to make 225 nuclear weapons – will round the Cape of Good Hope this month on two heavily armed ships protected by specially trained British forces, the environmental group says. “MOX shipments are simply not worth the risk, they are a major terror target and pose an enormous threat to the environment of all countries en route,” says Dr Rianne Teule, nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace International. [Greenpeace]

Sky picture by twoblueday licensed under a Creative Commons licence

Solar tower by chausinho licenses under a Creative Commons licence

Tap picture by chopr licensed under a Creative Commons licence


Leave a Reply