National Environment Month 2012
The celebration of the Environment Month is an annual event on the calendar of South Africa’s environment sector. This year’s celebration recognises the significance of the green economy in tandem with our drive towards a low carbon economy in South Africa. South Africa also celebrates this year’s Environment Month while still basking in the after-glow of hosting a successful hosting the COP 17 as well as Cabinet’s approval of the Climate Change White Paper Policy last year. Both are major milestones that have laid a proper foundation and also created a fertile ground for South Africa to start engaging on the green economy debate.
This is notwithstanding the fact that in responding to the United Nations’ UN) call on the green economy, South Africa through the Department of Environmental Affairs called a Green Economy Strategy Summit in May 2010 to gather valuable insights on key focus areas and issues requiring attention with respect to the green economy. The celebration is used to showcase the sterling work South Africa is doing in the preservation of the environment as well as the creation of job opportunities – both central to the work of DEA.
The celebration of the Environment Month is characterised by celebration of World Environment Day (WED), World Oceans Day and the World Day to Combat Desertification and other activities that will be used to accentuate the message of environmental preservation. This year’s Environment Month Programme also coincides with the hosting of the RIO + 20 in Brazil from 20 – 22 June 2012.
The Conference will take place in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. It is envisaged as a Conference at the highest possible level, including Heads of State and Government or other representatives.
The objective of the Conference is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, and address new and emerging challenges The WED, which is a key driver of this month long celebration, is an annual event that is aimed at being the biggest and most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action.
WED activities take place all year round but climax on 5 June every year, involving everyone from everywhere. The celebration of WED began in 1972 and has grown to become the one of the main vehicles through which the UN stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and encourages political attention and action. Through WED, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is able to personalize environmental issues and enable everyone to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development.
WED is also a day for people from all walks of life to come together to ensure a cleaner, greener and brighter outlook for themselves and future generations. The 2012 celebration of the WED comes at the end of a very successful hosting of the 17th Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP 17) in Durban between the 29th November and the 9th December 2011. As part of the department’s efforts to fast-track the regulatory framework for the green economy aimed at unlocking its potential for growth, DEA has allocated a budget of R25 million to install low pressure Solar Water Heaters (inclusive of in and out flow plumbing) in 2400 low cost houses in Stellenbosch, Western.
The budget includes creating 155 work opportunities, training of workers and employment of 5 SMME’s. The project commenced on 01 May 2011 and will terminate on 30 June 2013. To date, the project has created 136 work opportunities & 16 FTEs from the installation of 451 solar water heaters. Presenting the Budget Speech, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan also announced that the Environmental Programme of the Department will receive a cash injection for the Working for Water to the tune of an additional R1.1 billion (a total of R7.7 billion) providing for a total of 135 000 jobs over the medium term.
To lift the profile of the environment portfolio, while also ensuring that it is mainstreamed, the Department of Environment will lead the environment campaign programme that is aimed at also giving a human face to environmental issues and enable people to realize not only their responsibility, but also their power to become agents for change in support of sustainable and equitable development
The Environment Month’s celebration will be done under the UN approved theme for the celebration of the World Environment Day.
Theme: “Green Economy: Does it Include You?”
For the purposes of the Green Economy Initiative, UNEP has developed a working definition of a green economy as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.
Practically speaking, a green economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes. This development path should maintain, enhance and, where necessary, rebuild natural capital as a critical economic asset and source of public benefits, especially for poor people whose livelihoods and security depend strongly on nature.
Green Economy is prioritised as one of the key economic drivers in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2009- 2014, Outcome 4 (Decent employment through inclusive economic growth), Outcome 10 (Environmental Assets and natural resources that are valued, protected and continually enhanced) and in the New Growth Path announced by Cabinet in October 2010. The MTSF 2009 – 2014 priority 9 highlights the implementation of the 2008 cabinet approved National Framework for Sustainable Development (NFSD) to ensure that the country follows a sustainable development trajectory.
The green economy refers to two inter-linked developmental outcomes for the South African economy:
- Growing economic activity (which leads to investment, jobs and competitiveness) in the green industry sector
- A shift in the economy as a whole towards cleaner indus¬tries and sectors with a low environmental impact com¬pared to its socio-economic impact.
Green economy is a growing economic development model based on the knowledge that aims to address the interdependence of economic growth and natural ecosystems and the adverse impact economic activities can have on the environment. Green economy can create green jobs, ensure real sustainable economic growth and prevent environmental pollution, global warming, resource depletion and environmental degradation.
A global transition to a low carbon and sustainable economy can create large numbers of green jobs across many sectors of the economy, and indeed can become an engine of development. South Africa has a rich natural resource base and ranks amongst the top 3 in the world's most bio-diverse countries.
The key sectors expected to drive green economy include:
- green buildings
- greener transport including electric vehicles and bus rapid transit
- green cities
- energy supply including grid-connected solar, thermal, and large wind power projects, energy efficiency including demand-side management
- industry and manufacturing
- waste management
- natural resources as well as
- research and governance.
Linking the theme with poverty alleviation and job creation
In an attempt to use the green economy initiatives to alleviate poverty and create jobs, one could start by identifying how the Green Economy could help alleviate poverty and how it could protect and preserve Biodiversity. How does a green economy help eradicate poverty?
- Today’s traditional economic wealth has resulted in high economic and social costs, especially for the poor who depend on these resources for their livelihoods and are especially vulnerable to environmental contamination and degradation.
- The current unprecedented loss of biodiversity and ecosystem degradation is affecting sectors such as agriculture, animal husbandry, fishing and forestry – the very sectors which many of the world’s poor depend on for their livelihoods.
- The move towards a green economy aims to increase access to basic services and infrastructure as a means of alleviating poverty and improving overall quality of life.
- Renewable energy technologies, such as solar and wind power, and supportive energy policies promise to make a significant contribution to improving living standards and health in low income areas, particularly to those that currently lack access to energy.
- Significant opportunities exist to discontinue and redirect environmentally harmful subsidies.
- Removing or dismantling environmentally harmful subsidies and replacing them with more targeted support, such as cash transfers, can increase social protection goals while easing fiscal constraints and improvement environmental outcomes. How does a green economy protect and preserve biodiversity?
- The loss of biodiversity has caused some people to experience declining well-being, with poverty in some social groups being exacerbated.
- The ecosystem is the prime provider of a number of raw materials that serve as an engine for economic development.
- The preservation and protection of ecosystems is at the heart of the green economy agenda and green investments also aim at reducing the negative externalities caused by the exploitation of natural capital.
- By boosting investment in green forestry, a green economy agenda would preserve the economic livelihoods of over millions of people who live from timber, paper and fibre products.
In his 2011 State of The Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma said, “Research has indicated that we can create jobs in six priority areas. These are infrastructure development, agriculture, mining and beneficiation, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism".
Informed by this responsibility, in 2010 we launched the New Growth Path framework and identified our job drivers as infrastructure development, tourism, agriculture, mining, manufacturing and the green economy. We declared 2011 the year of job creation, and mobilised our social partners, namely business, labour and the community sector, to work with us in implementing the New Growth Path.
This clearly puts the green economy and green jobs at the heart of both the economy of this country, and the preservation of the environment.
- Minister and Deputy Minister’s engagements
- Public Awareness drive aimed at raising awareness of the environment and empowering our communities to make sound environmentally friendly decisions.
- “War on Poverty” Programmes Launch under the Environmental Programmes Branch
- Tree Planting and Clean up campaigns
- Celebration of World Oceans Day bringing the ocean debate to the mainstream of environment debate
- Exhibitions on environment awareness targeting communities, learners and ordinary South Africans
- Celebration of World Desertification Day on the 17th June 2012 to highlight the significance of the soil as the earth’s skin and the value it adds to food security and our sustenance in general
Proposed celebration concept for 2012 World Environment Day
This year’s celebration comes after South Africa’s successful hosting of the COP 17 as well as Cabinet’s approval of the Climate Change Policy.
The celebration will be used to locate the work of DEA in response’s Cabinet Lekgotla’s plea for departments to contribute positively towards job creation while also lifting sustainable development agenda of government. DEA will use the month to also launch its “war on poverty” approach to job creation and environmental protection. DEA will launch its investment in war on poverty projects within the EPWP space in a form of Social Responsibility, Policy and Projects (SRPP) and as the Natural Resources Management Programmes (NRMP) projects as a sign by government to respond to the president’s call for job creation and poverty alleviation. Beneficiaries of all these EPWP projects would converge at a central point with the President and the Minister in attendance.
This will signal not only the willingness by the DEA to protect the environment, but also the zeal to contribute towards job creation and poverty alleviation. In this way different communities from all over the country will showcase what they do to protect the environment as they eke out an income.
A Green Fund has been established to support implementation of programmes under the 9 green economy focus areas with the management committee established and chaired by DEA Director General. The aim is to work in collaboration with the Development Bank in the implementation of programmes.
With this year’s theme skewed toward the green conomy, a bigger focus will be on those projects and DEA interventions aimed at responding to the President and Cabinet’s clarion call for a low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive country to be buil.
World Oceans Day will be celebrated on 08 June 2012 to celebrate the role the oceans play in our environment and to indicate thatOceans are essential to food security and the health and survival of all life, power our climate and are a critical part of the biosphere. On the 17th June 2012, World Day to Combat Desertification will be celebrated to promote public awareness relating to climate change - to combat desertification and the effects of drought. We aim to sensitize the public to the fact that desertification, land degradation and drought dramatically affect the biodiversity in the soil.
In an attempt to raise maximum awareness, the Chief Directorate Communications will collaborate with Climate Change and Biodiversity as Conservation Branches in the department to raise the profile of the month and the days. The Chief Directorate Communications will in collaboration with the various provincial departments and relevant stakeholders develop an integrated calendar of the events for Environment Month 2012.