/ 13 October 2009

Greenpeace sets sights on South Africa

South Africa can cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 200-million tonnes by 2050 without sacrificing economic growth if it uses energy more efficiently and increases wind and solar power production, Greenpeace said on Monday.

South Africa could find economic opportunity, becoming the continent’s hub for green technologies now more commonly found in
North America, Asia and Europe, said Brad Smith, co-author of a new report on South Africa by Greenpeace and the European Renewable
Energy Council, a Brussels-based campaign group.

”Hopefully, South Africa will develop a homegrown industry and export the technology,” said Smith, campaign director for Greenpeace’s new Johannesburg-based Africa office.

Developing countries’ contribution to global warming and what should be done about it are expected to be major topics when 190 nations meet in Copenhagen later this year to try to draft an
ambitious agreement to fight climate change.

South Africa has said it, along with other developing nations, will argue that those that grew rich on polluting technologies now need to pay to help the poor get clean technologies. Nations like
South Africa were expected to balk at reducing their greenhouse gasses unless the developed world sharply cuts emissions and offers cash and technology.

Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council have produced scenarios on sustainable energy for several countries, but Monday’s was the first for Africa. It proposed simple steps such as insulation, strict efficiency standards for electrical appliances and vehicles as well as the phasing in of the use of renewable energy.

The emphasis was on using technology already proven and available, not on promoting ”drastic lifestyle changes” such as banning driving or flying, said Sven Teske, a Greenpeace International official and another co-author of the report.

”It’s not science fiction,” Teske said.

South Africa is the only African nation among the 20 countries that emit nearly 90% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

Greenpeace researchers acknowledged that many South Africans don’t have heating systems in their homes, and that the country ”sits with the legacy of apartheid where people were denied access to basic infrastructure and services”.

South Africa has seen protests, some violent, in recent months by people in impoverished communities demanding more and better services from their government 15 years after the end of white rule.

”Energy is a requirement for social and economic development, thus a lack of access to energy contributes to poverty,” the Greenpeace report said.

Smith said the polluting path blazed by the West was not the only route to development.

”You need to provide what people want, but in a smart way,” he said. ”It’s about smart development and smart energy.” – Sapa-AP