St Anna Private School’s “Green Queens,” from the Northern Cape Province, have won the inaugural (2023) Renewable Energy Challenge (REC) national final hosted at the Enlit Africa conference last week.
The REC was open to Grade 9 – 11 learners at climate club host schools in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape as part of the Active Climate Change Citizenship for a Just Transition in South Africa (SA Climate Change Champs) project that aims to enable proactive, constructive and collaborative engagement by communities, women and youth in climate mitigation and adaptation.
The SA Climate Change Champs is funded by the European Union and implemented by GreenCape in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF). It sets out to capacitate active citizens who can effectively participate in democratic processes to communicate with government their needs and priorities for climate mitigation and adaptation, with a particular focus on energy.
“Climate change is a global threat, but a pro-active response to it can bring new opportunities to the benefit of communities and the economy. Team Europe is committed to achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and through the South African Climate Change Champs, we are looking to empower the South African youth, women and communities to be ready to take up the opportunities that will stem from the Just Energy Transition in the country,” says Ariane Labat, Counsellor: Climate action, Environment, Agriculture – EU Delegation.
Learners taking part in the REC were asked to identify challenges affecting their homes, schools or communities and encouraged to think about how renewable energy can be used to solve some of these issues.
They were invited to submit projects relating to one of the following challenges:
- Food: home cooking solutions & preservation;
- Security: safety & crime prevention;
- Wellbeing: health & wellness,
- Transport: sustainable transport & mobility; or
- Housing: green building & household solutions.
In recognizing the value of diversity for problem solving, learners were allowed to submit projects through a variety of methods including:
- A technical model;
- A graphic novel or comic;
- Video storytelling; or
- A visual art piece.
National finalists were chosen during regional evaluations of all submissions in the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and Western Cape Provinces held in the month of April, with the finalists brought to Cape Town for an educational tour and an opportunity to present their projects as part of the national final at the Enlit Africa conference. As part of the tour, learners were given a tour of the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre (SARETEC) and Ener-G-Africa, and transported in an electric bus which has recently been added to the Golden Arrows Bus Services fleet as part of a viability project by the company.
“The submissions were incredibly diverse, demonstrating the creative potential and ingenuity of the participating learners. The winning submission, a technical model of a household with various energy efficiency installations, was produced by the Green Queens, a group from St Anna Private School in the Northern Cape Province. Other notable submissions included a technical model of a sustainable community, a solar-powered cooking device and a video unpacking one group’s vision for sustainable electric mobility in their community,” said Lindiwe Johnson, Senior Analyst: Skills Development at GreenCape.
“It was an absolute treat to listen to pupils from the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape present their green solutions to challenges in their communities, towns and cities – we were all blown away by the presentations. With these SA Climate Change Champs as our next generation of leaders, the future is bright indeed.” said Cecelia Kok, Head of Research and Advocacy at FNF Africa.
“South Africa is blessed with abundant renewable energy resources. particularly sunshine and wind. Yet at the same time, the country is experiencing widespread load shedding and significant challenges in meeting the service delivery needs of many communities. Many of those communities are also heavily coal/carbon dependent.
Moreover, youth unemployment is also significant. The REC aims to create youth awareness of the suite of opportunities in the green economy, particularly those that the growing renewable energy industry in South Africa will bring. We hope to empower them to become active citizens in responding to climate change and to be aware of the opportunities that exist for their communities for a sustainable future,” said Johnson.
Through the SA Climate Change Champs climate clubs and events such as the REC, the intent is to build a community of young South Africans who find their voice to meaningfully engage with national and local climate and energy policy, to communicate their vision of the future and who take action at their schools and in their communities on climate mitigation and adaptation.
“Whilst the focus is on empowering the youth through knowledge and building proactive, collaborative youth networks, the message that we also hope to take to government is that the youth voice on climate has to be taken into consideration when policy making and planning. The request is for the government to be receptive, and listen to the youth. They can bring new and innovative thinking and have a voice that should be heard in policy and decision making influencing their own future. Hear them, engage with them,” urged Johnson.
The SA Climate Change Champs, which is now in its second year, will be implemented over a period of four years. The project takes a whole-of-community-approach and will continue to capacitate local and regional government authorities, community based organisations, high school educators. All stakeholders have a part to play in the growth and development of the renewable energy sector, and stand to reap the rewards of an increasingly thriving industry.
2023 REC finalists also had their project displayed at last week’s Daily Mavericks’ “The Gathering.”