Economic growth goes together with increased demand for water, energy and ecological materials that results in the generation of waste — solid, gas and liquid — also known as pollution.
Globally, human activities are depleting our natural “capital” and the long-term capacity of our ecosystems to sustain future generations. As non-renewable resources become scarcer, supplies become less reliable and prices increase. If the City of Johannesburg is able to do more with fewer non-renewable resources, it will be better prepared for future declines in resources — in contrast with cities that are more resource-driven.
Johannesburg, like other cities in the country, still has to overcome significant developmental challenges regarding improving equity and sustainability, without necessarily increasing resource consumption. The priorities of environmental sustainability and tackling climate change call for advancing towards a sustainable, resilient and liveable city. The focus will be reducing the consumption of natural resources, reducing carbon emissions, minimising environmental pollution — air, water and waste to land — and protecting the city’s natural environment.
The city can no longer manage its natural environment as a pristine resource, due to existing and planned demands for development. This means that the city has an obligation to ensure the impact on its built environment is minimised in its own activities, as well as those of private developments and communities at large.
Working with various networks
Johannesburg is one of the leading cities in the C40 network in taking action on climate change. The city is constantly looking for opportunities to accelerate the reduction of emissions through interventions in areas such as transportation, spatial planning, energy, water and waste.
It was among 10 global cities announced as winners at the Third Annual C40 Cities Awards held in Paris during the COP21 conference on climate change.
Johannesburg was awarded the prestigious C40 Cities Award for its leadership in tackling climate change through its successful Green Bond initiative, and was ranked in the top five cities for its 2015 Climate Change Adaptation Plan.
Johannesburg is the first city that has made an attempt to measure greenhouse gas emissions from various city sources. It was declared to be compliant with the Mayoral Compact requirements. This means that the city has committed to responding to the challenges of climate change and has set a city target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Youth for the environment
In 2014, the Eco-guides project was recognised as the best innovative project in the environment sector at the National EPWP (expanded public works programme) Kamoso Awards. This project absorbs unemployed youths and promotes positive environmental action through education and awareness.
Over the last three years, the city has established 38 green schools where feeding schemes have been adopted. The city has also placed in the National Green Municipality Awards twice, taking second place in 2011 and in 2014 scooping the coveted first prize of R3-million. The prize money was used to support Johannesburg’s existing program of green schools.
At the green schools the city has supplied rainwater-harvesting tanks to irrigate food gardens, and provided recycling bins, energy efficient lightning and solar water geysers. These initiatives are all integrated with the curriculum employed by educators as tools for teaching about and addressing environmental challenges.
Recognising waste as a resource
Some of the biggest environmental challenges facing the City of Johannesburg are dealing with waste generation and waste management, and various initiatives have been adopted to respond to these challenges:
- The city is generating electricity from its wastewater treatment works;
- Electricity will be generated from gas extracted from the city’s landfill sites before the end of 2016;
- Two major feasibility studies have been concluded; one for a waste-to-energy project based on a public-private partnership that will divert a third of Joburg’s total waste, the other for an initiative to generate fuel for the City’s bus fleet from bio-waste;
- Waste reclaimers are being encouraged and assisted to form co-operatives that participate in the Jozi@Work initiative, which is reducing poverty levels in Johannesburg;
- The city’s garden sites are being upgraded to accept recyclables; and
- Separation at source is being rolled out in some areas, targeting a total of 470 000 households. In the final stages of the programme, a total of 950 000 households will be included.