WWF-SA calls for greater urgency in moving to low-carbon economy

Posted 22 February 2012
Source: http://m.wwf.org.za/media_room/news/?uNewsID=5420
WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) welcomes the fact that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan’s budget speech continues to reinforce the need for South Africa to find ways to deal with our carbon emissions and to diversify our approaches to dealing with energy constraints - but calls for greater urgency in moving to a low-carbon and sustainable economy.

“Although we don’t have clarity on how carbon taxes will be implemented, we welcome the explicit acknowledgement of the need to price carbon emissions and the phasing in of a tax instrument for this purpose,” says Saliem Fakier, Head of WWF’s Living Planet Unit.

“We recognise the need for a carbon tax that is sensitive to South Africa’s socio-economic context, individual tax payers and sustainable growth of the economy. Carbon pricing affects everybody but increasingly carbon emissions are being priced and incorporated into business. Internationally there’s a growing trend to penalise the carbon intensity (or `carbon footprint’) of products and services and we need to ensure that we start to reduce our carbon intensity so that South African goods remain competitive,” says Fakier.

Minister Gordhan also made provision for the incremental increase in the levy for electricity generated from non-renewable energy. WWF believes that this is a good approach to make people more aware of the need for energy saving. But more importantly there is a far more explicit commitment to allocate portions of this revenue towards promoting household energy saving and the continued roll-out of a million solar water geysers.

WWF also welcomes the continued commitment towards the scaling up of renewables energy infrastructure. Fakier adds, “We believe that both in the interim and long term renewables allow greater flexibility in our energy mix and ability to meet growing demand while at the same time stimulating green economy growth. We are willing to work with government in ensuring that the delivery of renewables is cost effective, continues to build our energy security and support the green jobs target”.

WWF recommends that government consider the deployment of public works programmes that not only create jobs but also improve and enhance affordable energy solutions and access in poor rural and urban communities. We are disappointed that this has not received sufficient emphasis despite increased allocation of funds for other community job creation programmes.

South Africa needs to have a shared vision to work together in finding ways to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. We accept that this cannot be done immediately but we would like to see continued provisions through greater annual budget and public sector spending toward achieving this vision.

WWF-SA further welcomes commitment to invest in wastewater treatment plants in certain areas, but reiterates our call for this to be treated as a national priority. More than half of South Africa’s wastewater treatment plants operated by local government are failing their own discharge standards and polluting rivers and estuaries.

We welcome the additional allocation of funds to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to improve agricultural support services. This is a positive step in supporting compliance and best management practices in the country’s agricultural industry.

Finally, we welcome government’s investment in Working for Water and Working on Fire, which promote the health of the country’s ecological systems and alleviate poverty through job creation, particularly for local communities.