News and updates from the continent

Climate change is everyone’s problem

Climate change is everyone’s problem

May 31, 2013

Carbon emissions and climate change are not new challenges: for years the world has been agonising over the problem and seeking ways to alleviate its negative effects.

In South Africa, however, people have tended to pay lip service to the environment. Although the country is a signatory to numerous pledges around environmentally-sustainable practices, consumers still use electricity that is among the “dirtiest” in world, while most companies don’t even know what their carbon footprint is, never mind how to start reducing it.

A recent conference on carbon emissions, organised by the Champions of the Environment Foundation (CeF), stressed the importance of companies acting now to help South Africa meet is Millennium Development Goal commitments as well as to minimise the negative effects of the upcoming carbon tax – while co-incidentally doing the right thing for the good of the planet.

Chairing the conference, Andrew Siddle warned that climate change is not only a first world problem, but could have dire consequences for the developing nations of Africa.

In fact, he says, Africa could be at the biggest risk of global warming, since 64% of the continent’s people are employed in the primary sector. In addition, a decline in crop yields as a result of climate change could affect up to 550-million people – more than half of the African the population.

Bantu Holomisa, chairman of the CeF, points out that the challenges of climate change economics present new areas of concern to governments.

“South Africa is a developing economy, rich in natural resources. Many of our people live in rural communities with limited resources in terms of education, health, food or personal security,” he says.

“It is important for environmentally-related fiscal instruments to be pro-poor where possible.”

He points out that South Africa made a number of commitments during the recent CoP17 (17th Conference of Parties) summit, and that organisations need to find ways of honouring those commitments.

Holomisa believes that a starting point would be for South Africa to establish a National Climate Change Green Fund.

“Government funds that are generated through avenues, such as taxing new car owners, should be channelled into such a fund,” he says.

“The fund could be made responsible for launching sustainable green projects that would create much needed jobs and also to contribute towards our nation’s food security. It could be used as a mechanism to help with the education of our people in understanding the need to take care of their environment.”

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