Articles Posted in the Business category

Wanted: Research and publications officer

May 28, 2009
Posted in Business

Organisation: Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Project (SECCP), a project of Earthlife Africa Johannesburg
Location: Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Type: Full-time
Application deadline: 29 May 2009
Gross Salary: R180,000.00 to R150,000.00 per annum, depending on experience

Job Description:
The SECCP is a progressive and campaign-orientated organisation specialising in energy and climate change issues, and with a history of solid and quality research. This position is to produce research materials that inform the SECCP’s campaigns and its policy positions, both nationally and internationally.

Key Tasks:
The production of primary research into energy and climate change issues
The production of briefing and campaign materials
Management of outsourced research
Assisting in the dissemination of this work

Essential Requirements:
Proven research skills and history
Fluency in written and spoken English
Ability to work to deadline and self-manage
Commitment to progressive and environmental politics
Solid understanding of basic physics, chemistry, economics and biology

To Apply:
Please send CV with letter of application (2 pages max.)
Please include three contactable references
Please provide a sample (no more than 1,500 words) of written work
Please send all materials to:


Climate change and economic recovery – an interview with Nicholas Stern

March 8, 2009
Posted in Business

We are living in the year of crisis – the biggest financial crisis since the 1930s and a climate change crisis that potentially has even greater, more dangerous consequences. But it also a time of great opportunity if we act to solve the two crises together, says economist Nicholas Stern (he of the Stern Review) in an interview for the McKinsey Quarterly.

He says we need to overcome the idea that the economic crisis takes precedence over the climate crisis because there are great returns to be had from handling the two together. We can actually be excited about the future, he says, because we have “the biggest technological opportunity that we’ve had for a very long time: as big as the railways, as big as electricity, as big as the motorcar, and, most recently, information technology. It’s the opportunity to go for low-carbon growth.”

The real challenge is to move that change fast enough, he says.

Read the full transcript of the interview at McKinsey Quarterly

Africa e-waste pilot project shows promise

February 18, 2009
Posted in Business

The first results of a pilot project to tackle the problem of electronic waste (e-waste) in Africa were released this week.

This initiative was carried out in South Africa, Morocco and Kenya and has produced information on how African governments, organisations and society are dealing with the rising problem of e-waste management, as well as test solutions on the way forward.

The project – a joint initiative of IT company HP, the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) – aims to assess and improve the management of e-waste in Africa so as to generate jobs in the informal recycling sector.

The main focus of the pilot project, an e-waste recycling facility in the Cape Town suburb of Maitland, processed about 60 tonnes of electronic equipment, generated an income of around $14,000 (R140,000) from February to November 2008 and created direct employment for 19 people, the project partners said in a press release.

The facility concentrates on low-tech and labour-intensive material dismantling and recovery. Its aim is to refurbish, repair and reuse IT equipment, with environmentally responsible dismantling and recycling only as a last resort. Some non-toxic e-waste is turned into art (see pictures here).

“Our research has … demonstrated some of the incredible entrepreneurial skills we can tap into in the informal sector in Africa,” said project manager and Empa researcher Mathias Schluep.

“By providing tools and training we have removed potential environmental and health problems that can be caused by handling e-waste incorrectly. What’s more, we have created a channel to full employment for creative minds in the informal sector.”

Cisse Kane from the DSF said: “Information technology represents a real opportunity to boost the African economy, but the question of what we do with old equipment once it no longer works is an important one. This project has helped us move some way to closing the loop by providing a model for safe and efficient treatment and disposal of e-waste.”

Assessment studies were carried out in Morocco and Kenya. These “provided a clear picture of the e-waste management landscape in those countries, particularly on the legislation in place, local awareness and behaviour, infrastructural needs and total amount of waste generated”, said the statement.

Kenya, for example, is producing 3,000 tonnes of e-waste per year, with an increase of 200 percent per year, but there is a clear lack of legislative framework and practical e-waste management systems, the study found.

The information and experience gathered in this project, which also included contributions from local organisations and NGOs, will support the launch of the second phase of the project, which aims at engaging corporate and government partners to extend e-waste management programmes to other countries and tackle the problem of e-waste in the entire continent.

“HP has a responsibility that starts with the design of a product and goes right through to its disposal and we take that responsibility very seriously,” commented Klaus Hieronymi, director, environmental business management, HP EMEA. “We see these projects in Africa as both providing employment opportunities for local communities and as a step towards a sustainable solution for tackling electronic waste in Africa.”

Budget: Coal still gets more support than clean

February 16, 2009
Posted in Business, Renewable energy

coal-fired-plantEnvironmental organisation WWF South Africa has welcomed the taxes targeting “unsustainable spending” in this year’s Budget, but says that the government needs to help to reduce the cost of sustainable alternatives by providing renewable energy with the same finance support it gives to fossil fuel.

The group describes as “very positive moves” the carbon tax on new vehicles, which means that people who buy the most fuel-efficienct vehicles will pay less tax; the increase in the fuel levy; the levy on inefficient incandescent light-bulbs; the tax breaks for investments in energy efficiency; and the clarity on tax exemption for carbon credits, which encourages the generation of carbon credit and greenhouse gas savings, but not speculation in carbon credit.

But the government has agreed to guarantee R176-billion worth of debt for the national power utility, Eskom, in order to reduce the cost of finance for its R343-billion investment, most of which will go towards financing massive new coal power stations.

Peet du Plooy, WWF’s Trade and Investment Advisor in South Africa, says: “It would not be reasonable in a country that pursues climate leadership, to exclude the renewable energy sector from the same much-needed finance support that government is extending, via Eskom, to investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.”

“WWF does not support the planning basis for the present Eskom expansion, or the selection of conventional coal technology as a result of such planning. However, if this public investment were accepted as a ship that’s already sailed, there is still a case to be made that the same provisions should also be available to guarantee the finance of clean, renewable energy,” says Du Plooy.

Motor vehicle manufacturing, airlines and mining, “some of the most environmentally risky industries”, have also received support worth billions of rands in this year’s Budget, the WWF points out in a statement.

Photo by Arnold Paul, licensed under Creative Commons Atr

The organisation also says that the R6.4 billion that will be made available for public transport, roads and rail infrastructure would be made more sustainable if the money were “channelled more towards public transport and rail infrastructure rather than roads”.

Du Plooy also said that: “A tax on emissions-intensive industries like private cars or fossil-fuelled electricity, should be balanced with incentives for job-intensive, low-emissions alternatives like public transport and renewable energy.”

Source: WWF

Photo by Arnold Paul licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5

Budget: save energy or pay up

February 12, 2009
Posted in Business

Despite the challenges posed by the global economic crisis, energy efficiency and climate change feature prominently in this year’s national budget, presented by Trevor Manuel, the finance minister, in Cape Town on Wednesday.

South Africa is playing a key role in the post-Kyoto climate negotiations and there is increased government policy focus on “environmental initiatives that mitigate the impact of climate change and promote sustainable development, energy efficiency and investment in new technologies”, the National Treasury says in its Budget Review.

Among the main tax proposals outlined in the budget were a number that addressed environmental concerns, namely:

  • incentives for companies to invest in energy-efficient technologies and cleaner production;
  • implementation of the electricity levy announced in Budget 2008;
  • reforms on motor vehicle excise duties to include carbon emissions;
  • introducing a new tax on energy-intensive lightbulbs;
  • making certified emission reduction credits tax exempt or subject to capital gains tax, instead of normal income tax; and
  • increasing the levy on plastic shopping bags

Incentives for investments in energy-efficiency
A number of environmental statutes and regulations require the private sector to eliminate inefficiencies in the use of energy, water and raw materials. Incentives for energy efficient investments are seen as market-based measures to complement these regulations, states the Budget Review. Existing legislation allows for a three-year 50:30:20 percent accelerated depreciation allowance for investments in renewable energy and biofuels production. A supplementary depreciation allowance of up to 15 percent is proposed. This means that companies can write off 115 percent of the value of the equipment, says one report. To qualify for the additional allowance companies would need to provide documentary proof of the energy efficiencies (after a two- or three-year period), certified by the Energy Efficiency Agency. There will be a consultation process to establish which equipment will qualify for the tax perk, says the report.

Tax on incandescent lightbulbs
To encourage consumers to use energy-efficient compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) – thus reducing energy demand and lowering greenhouse gas emissions from power stations – an environmental levy of about R3 is proposed for old-fashioned incandescent bulbs to be implemented from October 1 2009. The levy is expected to generate an about R20-million.

Tax proposals for Clean Development Projects
Under the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), projects in developing countries that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions can be issued carbon emission reductions (CERs). But South Africa is lagging behind other countries, such as India and China, in taking up CDM projects.

“South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions rank in the top 20 in the world, contribute 1.8 percent to global emissions and are responsible for 42 percent of Africa’s emissions”

To encourage South African companies to take up these projects it is proposed that income gained from the disposal of primary CERs be tax–exempt or subject to capital gains tax instead of normal income tax. Secondary CERs are to be classified as trading stock and taxed accordingly, says the Budget Review.

Excise duties on vehicles
To encourage improvements in fuel efficiency and curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, the Budget proposes that excise duties on motor vehicles be adjusted to take into account carbon emissions as of March 1 2010.

“Policy measures to address the environmental and social costs associated with the transport sector, such as reforms to vehicle and fuel taxation [an increase in the levy on both petrol and diesel has also been proposed], seek to promote fuel efficiency, limit the rapid growth of the number of vehicles on the roads and encourage the use of public transport,” says the Budget Review.

International air passenger departure tax
This tax proposal is also listed under the environmental fiscal reforms in the budget reviews, presumably because of the carbon emissions associated with air transport. International air passenger departure tax currently stands at R120 per passenger on international flights and R60 per passenger on flights to the Southern African countries, the proposal is to increase the taxes to R150 and R80 respectively from October 1.

Increased levy on plastic bags
The budget proposes increasing the levy on plastic shopping bags from 3 cents to 4 cents a bag. This levy was introduced in 2004/05 and it has reportedly helped to reduce waste. The plastic bag levy is expected to generate R15-million in revenue.

Electricity levy
A levy of 2c per kw/h for electricity generated from non-renewable sources was proposed in last year’s budget and this is expected to be implemented in July this year. The electricity tax is expected to generate R2,78-billion, according to this year’s Budget Review.

The National Treasury notes that South Africa’s natural resources need to be “adequately managed” or economic growth will worsen environmental problems such as “excessive greenhouse gas emissions, the large-scale release of pollutants that result in poor air quality, inappropriate land use that leads to land degradation and biodiversity loss, deteriorating water quality and increasing levels of solid waste generation”.

The Treasury is showing that it is trying to practice what it preaches. Last year it started to measure the Budget’s environmental impact. This year it reports that it has managed to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from transport (flights and vehicle use) by more than 3,000kg; it reduced the amount of paper it used and in the process saved 119.5 trees; and it used 200MW less electricity than during last year’s budget period.

All we can say is, keep up the good work, and what about aiming for carbon neutral next year?

Obama’s new age and big investments in SA solar

January 23, 2009
Posted in Business, Renewable energy


The ad above apparently appeared in an Australian newspaper this week.

The big news of this week is, of course, the inauguration of President Barack Obama and all the hope that brings for people concerned about the state of the planet: he has, after all, said that the US would at last join the world in trying to combat climate change and has plans to invest billions of dollars in alternative energy technologies to create jobs and help drag the US economy out of the doldrums. In his inauguration speech he said: “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” Inspiring stuff. We wait in anticipation to see what develops.

Renewable energy seems to be getting a boost here in South Africa, too, with news this week of multimillion-rand investments in two solar water heating companies:

  • RISING IN THE EAST: Zwelakhe Sisulu, the son of Walter and Albertina Sisulu, has signed a R20-million deal with the Eastern Cape Development Corporation to finance a solar water heater manufacturing plant in East London, the Daily Dispatch Online reports. Sisulu’s company, Matla Solar Energy, has a partnership with Taiwanese company Min-Yang Funland, which will supply technology and bring management to South Africa as part of a skills transfer arrangement, the report says. Sisulu said the East London plant would be up and running within six months. The South African solar water heater market could be worth of billions of rands, Sisulu was quoted as saying, adding that already two municipalities in Gauteng Province (Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni) had put out tenders for a total of 500,000 solar water heaters a year. That is just a start because municipalities could earn carbon credits which they could sell to boost their revenue.
  • COMFORTING SUM: US investment company E+Co has invested R2,3-million in Johannesburg solar power company Home Comforts, Engingeering News reports. The loan will be used to help grow the company’s solar water heater division, which comprises 60 percent of its business, Home Comfort’s CEO Hendrik Roux was quoted as saying. The loan is E+CO’s seventh investment in the South African solar water heating business.

Call for more public participation in SA’s energy policy

December 17, 2008
Posted in Business

The government has failed to respect the right of the South African public to participate meaningfully in the country’s future energy policy, says the Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM).

Its committment to a long-term strategy that involves nuclear plants generating up to a quarter of the country’s total energy output in the coming decades has been made without any meaningful public participation, the Rhodes University-based group says in a press release.

The energy policy implemented in South Africa will have a major impact on efforts to eradicate poverty in the country. To do this it needs to maximise job creation and enhance opportunities for the improvement of the quality of life of the poor majority, it says.

“Nuclear power is enormously expensive and there are coherent arguments that it is not cost effective, does not create the kind and number of jobs that our country desperately needs and poses unacceptable environmental risks,” the PSAM states.

There have been some encouraging signs that the government is looking at ways to introduce more renewable energy. For example, Nelly Magubane, deputy director-general of the department of public enterprise, said recently that “renewable energy is definitely on the cards…we are actually looking at ways of making sure that we get even more renewable energy in the system”, notes the PSAM.

Although Eskom recently shelved plans to build a new power station, Nuclear One, because it could not afford it, the PSAM notes that the electricity utility has made it clear that nuclear power remains firmly on its long-term agenda.

Eskom is negotiating a $5-billion dollar (about R50-billion) loan from the World Bank to help fund its expansion and has already secured a $500-million dollar loan from the African Development Bank.

The PSAM is urging both Eskom and the World Bank to conduct its negotiations openly and transparently. “After all, what is being considered is essentially a loan to the people of South Africa, and we have a right to know what the conditions of the loan are, since we will be repaying it,” it says.

The PSAM wants the World Bank and on the government to make any loan to Eskom conditional on guarantees of meaningful public participation in the formulation of South Africa’s future energy policy and to ensure that the terms and conditions of any loan are transparent, allowing both parliament and the public to hold Eskom accountable for its use of the funds.

Guide to climate friendlier gadgets

November 26, 2008
Posted in Business, Lifestyle

The lastest Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics has just been released and this time, in the run-up to the big UN climate change talks in Poland next week, the focus is on climate leadership.

Consumer electronics can play an important role in moving the world towards a low-carbon future, but most companies have been slow to get serious about climate change, says Greenpeace. Although they have made “gradual” improvements on toxic and e-waste issues over the past few years, only a minority of consumer electronics companies are really leading on energy and climate change. And now Greenpeace wants them to step up to the challenge and show leadership.

Since June, the greener electronics guide has examined companies on their climate and energy criteria, which include, their direct emissions, their product performance, their use of renewable energy and their political support for emission cuts. And here’s what Greenpeace found:

Of the 18 market-leading companies included, only Sharp, Fujitsu Siemens and Philips show full support for the necessary emissions cuts of 30 percent for industrial nations by 2020.

Only HP and Philips have made commitments to make substantial cuts in their own emissions from the product manufacture and supply chain.

All the other companies in the guide make “vague or essentially meaningless statements about global emissions reductions and have no plans to make absolute emissions cuts themselves”.

Many companies have gained points from their products’ efficiency improvements.

Most companies use little renewable energy. Nokia, which is still in the number one spot, sources 25 percent of its total electricity use from renewable energy and is committed to sourcing 50 percent by 2010.

Other brands with points for renewable energy use are FSC, Microsoft, Toshiba, Motorola and Philips.

Although Philips and HP score well on energy issues, Greenpeace says they’re position on toxics is letting them down.

Those who score well on toxic chemical criteria already have products on the market free of the worst substances, including Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, FSC and Sharp.

Overall, the biggest moves up the ranking are Motorola, (from 15th to joint 7th), Toshiba (from 7th to 3rd) and Sharp, (up from 16th to 10th).

The companies falling down the ranking are the PC brands Acer, Dell, HP and Apple. Although Apple drops a place, it has improved its total score this time because of better reporting on the carbon footprint of its products, and although not scoring any extra points, its new iPods are now free of both PVC and brominated flame retardants.

Read more about how the companies fared.

SA corporates are getting the climate change message

November 19, 2008
Posted in Business

The results of South Africa’s second annual Carbon Disclosure Project survey show encouraging evidence that companies are beginning to respond meaningfully to the challenge of climate change, the minister of environmental affairs and tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, said in a speech at the CDP report’s launch on Wednesday.

He said that the companies that responded to this year’s survey “understand that it would not be economically, environmentally or politically sustainable for South Africa to continue to grow our emissions along a business-as-usual path”.

Other points made in his speech include that:

  • The sample size had more than doubled from the Top 40 companies listed on the JSE Securities Exchange last year to the Top 100 companies this year.
  • The response rate this year of 59 percent is apparently better than the global average of 55 percent. (Brazil’s Top 75 response result was 83 percent and India’s Top 200 result was 19 percent.) See Engineering News
  • 75 percent of responding companies disclosed their greenhouse gas emissions, which the minister said was a sizeable increase on last year. Even though in several instances the disclosure was only on a “partial basis”, he said there was signs of an “emerging commitment to improved monitoring and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions”.
  • Carbon-intensive companies dominate South Africa’s disclosed greenhouse gas emissions. The three largest emitters (excluding Eskom, the national electricity utility) – Sasol, BHP Billiton and Anglo American – account for two-thirds of the total reported greenhouse gas emissions of companies that responded to the survey.
  • Electricity consumption constitutes 41 percent of the total reported greenhouse emissions. (About 90 percent of South Africa’s electricity is generated in coal-fired power stations.)
  • Awareness of and engagement in government policy on climate issues appears to have increased significantly since last year’s report. Many senior executives across different sectors had been engaged in the process of formulating the government’s Long Term Mitigation Scenarios, which were released earlier this year
  • Companies acknowledge that an escalating price on carbon will be part of the future business environment.
  • Only 23 percent of companies disclosed specific, company-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets. “If South Africa’s emissions are to peak and then decline, companies will need to demonstrate a significantly higher level of ambition” in this area,” the minister said.
  • Most of the companies have developed, or are implementing, formal systems for measuring and reporting on their emissions, but gaps remain in their governance systems for climate change, and in the nature and extent of executive board oversight on this issue, he said.
  • South African investors do not appear to fully appreciate the business implications of climate change, nor are they exerting a meaningful influence on the corporate sector on this issue.

The minister also said: “Not only does proper tracking and reporting [of greenhouse gas emissions] make business sense, but it is only when companies know their carbon footprint that they can properly plan to mitigate. It is also an indicator of good corporate governance, of accountability, and of taking co-ownership for the future.”

Companies need to be prepared for an era when the reporting of GHG emissions will be mandatory, he added.

Africa ‘too risky’ for CDM investors

November 10, 2008
Posted in Business, Green News

African countries are not profiting from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects to tackle climate change in developing countries because of administrative and technical problems, according to climate specialists who met in Dakar last week. “People think it is too risky to invest in Africa,” a delegate was reported as saying. [AFP]

Africa has only 25 of the 1,192 CDM certified greenhouse gas cutting projects around the world – a mere 2.27 percent. Eleven of these projects are registered in South Africa. The CDM is a mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol through which developed countries can offset their greenhouse gas emissions by investing in emissions reduction projects in developing countries.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that the European Union has put forward a proposal to share renewable energy technologies with African countries and may also offer funding to African countries to develop their economies sustainably, reports Bloomberg. The proposal, which will be discussed in Algeria later this month, is being viewed as a way to break the deadlock in global climate change talks.

It was also announced last week that the Western Cape provincial government has established a Clean Development Mechanism office in Cape Town which is working on €60-million public transport project with the Italian government. The department of transport deal project reportedly involves between 100 and 150 higher-efficiency diesel buses, of the sort used during the Beijing Olympics. A memorandum of understanding has been signed with the Italian government for the provision of the buses. [Engineering News]

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