Will SA Lead or Tag along in Sustaining Its Energy? UNDERSTANDING Green Economy

Article excerpt

What is the green economy? The fundamental principle of a green economy is that it uses a resource-efficient, low-emission and pro-employment approach as the key driver of growth. Economic growth and social welfare still lie at the forefront of its objectives. It does not promote sacrificing growth to conserve the natural environment, but rather encourages investigation into how greener forms of business can provide opportunities for growth.

Projects that have proven to be successful internationally - measured as reduced environmental impact with net wealth and employment creation - are shifts towards more organic methods in agriculture, regulated recycling requirements in manufacturing, increased use of renewable energies and increasing emphasis on local supply to reduce transport emissions.

The challenge is that the gains of moving towards a green economy and greener methods of production will only accrue in the long run, while costs will occur immediately. The technologies are still new and the economies of scale do not yet exist to make widespread use financially feasible. Most firms are therefore reluctant to change their existing production methods and are unlikely to adopt greener practices unless financial gains can be proven.

The government has voiced a strong intention to support a green economy. At the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in March, it stated that poverty eradication remained its main objective, but that investments towards green-sensitive growth could support this. It highlighted public transport infrastructure, renewable energies, waste management and green buildings as areas of opportunity for economic growth and large-scale job creation.

With regard to infrastructure development, the government has passed new building regulations that mandate all new buildings to be designed to a standard that minimises energy use. …