South Africa’s Green Economy Accord was launched at the COP17 talks in Durban today. The Accord, one of the most comprehensive social pacts on green jobs in the world, builds a partnership to create 300 000 new jobs by 2020, in economic activities as diverse as energy generation, manufacturing of products that reduce carbon emissions, farming activities to provide feedstock for biofuels, soil and environmental management and eco tourism.
In his opening speech at the Conference, President Jacob Zuma referred to the Accord as a key example of the steps being taken locally to address the challenge of climate change, drawing on the strong traditions of social dialogue.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe (pictured) yesterday signed a pledge on the green economy in support of the Accord.
One of the commitments in the Accord is to install one million solar water-heating systems in South Africa by the 2014 financial year. The COP17 Expo is used to showcase the country’s progress on solar water heating systems. One of the stands has a live “counter” to show the number of heating units installed since the start of the Conference. It also provides for companies and members of the public to make pledges to financially support access by poor households to solar water heating systems.
Green economy’s developmental benefits
Minister of Economic Development, Mr Ebrahim Patel, pointed to the solar water heating system as an example of the green economy’s developmental benefits.
“Many South Africans have been able to access hot water through solar water heating systems. The vast majority of new solar water heating systems are installed in houses owned by low-income South Africans. This programme helps to bring the benefits of renewable energy to local communities”, Minister Patel said.
“COP 17 is an opportunity for us to share our experience and to learn from the rest of the world on successful examples of using new technologies and new ways of engineering our workplaces, homes and transport systems to ensure that we make a positive contribution to climate change goals”, he said.
The Green Economy Accord was signed at South Africa’s National Parliament on 17 November 2011 in Cape Town by representatives of the South African Government, business representatives, organised labour and the community constituency.
Commitments to a greener economy
The Accord includes commitments by stakeholders toward a greener economy in South Africa. At the same time, the parties will work together to ensure that the process of greening the economy promotes employment creation and improves conditions for the poor in particular.
Critical commitments relate to increased use of renewable energy through generation for the national electricity grid as well as mass installation of solar water heaters; expanded production of clean stoves for South Africa and the continent; support for biofuels through regulatory measures and assistance to small farmers; investment in mass transit and to shift freight from road to rail; establishment of various finance facilities for green projects; a target of 80% of new jobs to go to young workers, who face high levels of unemployment; and support for school programmes on the environment.
Specific commitments include the following.
- Government will procure 3 725 megawatts of renewable energy for the national grid by 2016. That is more than the annual energy use of Cape Town, South Africa’s second largest city. Eskom and business will also continue to work on technologies to further reduce emissions from its coal-fired plants.
- The solar and wind energy industries aim create at least 50 000 green jobs by 2020. They will develop a “roof-top” programme to install 300 000 solar PV power generation units for residential, commercial and industrial buildings by 2020. They will work with government to create local industrial capacity with an initial minimum target of 35% localisation as a first part of an aspirational target of 75% local content.
- Government will also support the installation of one million solar water heating systems by 2014, which will provide the basis for expanding local production of components and heating systems. The insurance industry will promote locally-manufactured solar water heaters to replace the 200 000 damaged every year. Organised labour will help establish and finance cooperatives to undertake installation and maintenance.
- All the parties will promote the manufacture and distribution of clean cooking stoves and heaters for the local and continental market.
- The state-owned Industrial Development Corporation will provide up to R25 billion (over US $3 billion) for investments in green economy activities over the next five years. The private sector will strengthen existing efforts by financial institutions to fund investments in the green economy and pursue investment opportunities in manufacturing linked to renewable energy initiatives. Organised labour will promote retirement fund investment in green investment vehicles that will create jobs and support the broader goals of the green economy.
- Business will work to expand investment in projects that enhance the environmental performance of existing production facilities. It will develop benchmarks for energy efficiency by industry as well as company energy-management plans.
- These plans will implement the National Energy Efficiency Strategy, which includes targets for 2015 of reducing energy intensity by:
Commercial and public buildings: 10%
- Business will actively promote retrofitting by companies and households to reduce energy use, especially in commercial buildings. Organised labour will establish joint workplace committees to discuss and implement energy efficiency plans. It will undertake a “lights-off after hours” campaign in buildings and workplaces and educate members on the importance of energy efficiency. Government will introduce regulations to phase out incandescent light bulbs.
- Government will provide a supportive regulatory environment for the biofuels industry, including finalisation of mandatory blending regulations and incentives. Business will support smallholder schemes and co-operatives to supply feedstock in order to improve livelihoods through the biofuels strategy.
- Government will invest in mass-transport systems that will reduce reliance on private car use. Initial steps have been taken on bus rapid transport and commuter rail. By 2014, the state-owned commuter rail company, PRASA, will invest R20 billion in new trains, most of which will be manufactured locally. Government will also review its rail investment programme in order to accelerate the shift of freight transport to rail from road. The parastatal Transnet will invest about R63 billion in the freight rail system over the next five years. For its part, organised business will continue to promote greater use of rail freight by companies.
- Government and business will seek to employ young people as far as possible in green economy activities. At least 80% of new employees in the manufacturing and installation of solar-water heating systems and in public and community works programmes directed at environmental challenges should be young people.
- All the parties will collaborate to bring smaller and social enterprises into the green economy. They will support green-funding road shows to increase public awareness of the opportunities that exists, especially for historically disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
Twelve Cabinet Ministers were actively involved in the discussions around the Accord, namely the Ministers of Energy, Economic Development, Environmental Affairs, Finance, Trade & Industry, Labour, Public Enterprises, Transport, Public Works, Higher Education & Training, Rural Development and Agriculture. Business delegates included representatives of South Africa’s largest companies as well as smaller enterprises and from green energy associations. All three labour federations with a joint membership of more than 2,5 million workers were represented. Community representatives were drawn from women, youth, cooperatives and civic formations.