South Africa has, in many ways, demonstrated continental leadership in mitigating the effects of climate change. From policy introductions to alternative energy, the southernmost country in Africa has achieved a significant level of success in combating the phenomenon that may affect developing regions the most; sustainable energy.
The country’s Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, listed a few of these initiatives. Renewable Energy Independent Power Purchase Programme (REIPPP), the most popular, is aimed at supplementing the country’s energy supply with renewable energy.
“Today there is rapid uptake of large-scale renewable energy technologies through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Purchase Programme (REIPPP). So far under the REIPPP programme, 3,933 MW have already been procured,” she said.
There is also the National Green Fund through which South Africa is “greening” its cities. This can be seen in a number of actions including reducing energy loads in buildings, creating a recycling economy and restoring wetlands to protect water resources, according to the minister.
“Extensive work has been done, jointly with business and industry, to analyze the emission reduction potential in key economic sectors, and to understand the social and economic opportunities and impacts of reducing emissions,” she added.
The center-piece of all these is the National Green Economy Strategy, a strategic directive to grow economic activity in the green industry sector thereby attracting investments, creating jobs and improving competitiveness. The strategy also includes plans to move existing economic sectors towards cleaner, low-carbon industries in order to protect the environment without compromising economic benefits.
Introducing the strategy, Minister Molewa said; “South Africa’s approach is one of promoting sustainable development by prioritizing climate change responses that have significant mitigation benefits and have significant economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation benefits.”
According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), no continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa. “Given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, exacerbated by widespread poverty and the existing low levels of development,” the report reads.
In every developing region of the world, climate change is a threat to economic growth and long-term prosperity due to changes in natural systems and resources. Among other effects, the report estimates that, by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.
In addition, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by 50 percent in some countries meaning food security could be severely compromised. The cost of adaptation to all these could cost as much as 5 percent to 10 percent of GDP.
Given these threats, more African states are encouraged to follow South Africa’s lead in building capacity against climate change.