It is time for South Africans to take climate change seriously, said President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday in his response to the debate on his State of the Nation Address.
He said if South Africa is a country that prioritises the interests of the poor and the vulnerable, then we need to act with greater urgency to respond to the effects of climate change and make our contribution to preventing it.
“The rural poor are most affected by the droughts that have become more frequent and which last longer,” he said.
“The urban poor is most affected by the impact this has on food prices and the availability of water.
“It is people who live in informal settlements who are most affected by the flooding that accompanies the increasingly extreme weather conditions.”
He said we are all affected in different ways by the environmental changes taking place on land, in our oceans and in the air.
“Unless we tackle climate change, we will not be able to meet our developmental objectives.”
He said South Africa ratified the Paris Agreement to Combat Climate Change as part of the global effort to dramatically reduce the rate of global warming.
Ramaphosa said as part of the country’s efforts to build a sustainable low carbon economy, we are taking steps to finalise the national Climate Change Bill, which will provide a regulatory framework for the management of climate change and its impacts.
“We are making a fair contribution to the global effort to stabilise greenhouse gases through our Nationally Determined Contribution to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”
He said South Africa is due to be the next coordinator of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, which is vital in ensuring that Africa remains united and speaks with one voice on the key climate change issues facing the Continent.
He also paid homage to the role Edna Molewa, who passed away last year, played in these efforts as Minister of Environmental Affairs.
“The progress we have made in responding to the various environmental challenges that confront our people is in no small measure thanks to the leadership and dedication of the late Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa,” he said.
“She worked to ensure that the conservation of the environment became a catalyst to advance the objectives of the National Development Plan.”
“Taking our lead from her vision, we continue to encourage investment in cleaner energy through the renewable energy independent power producers programme.”
Ramaphosa said South Africa benefitted through the competitive bidding process from rapid, global technology developments and price trends, buying clean energy at lower and lower rates with every bid cycle.
“As a result, South Africa is now getting renewable energy at some of the lowest tariffs in the world.
“Under the renewable energy, a total number of 112 projects have been procured and it is envisaged that these projects will create 114,266 job years over the construction and 20 year operations period.”
A job year is equivalent to a full time employment opportunity for one person for one year.
Ramaphosa said government will work with all stakeholders to ensure that the gradual transition towards new forms of electricity generation creates jobs, develops new capabilities and does not negatively affect the livelihoods of communities.
While congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is agitating for a Green New Deal in the United States, South Africans will have to do with the Good Green Deeds programme.
Ramaphosa announced that on March 8, this “landmark campaign” will be launched to “mobilise all South Africans to become environmentally conscious”.
“The Good Green Deeds programme is aimed at changing behaviour towards littering, towards illegal dumping, and towards waste in general,” Ramaphosa said.
He said it is part of government’s call and commitment “to clean South Africa, to make our cities, towns and rural areas places where it is safe and healthy for all to live”.
“Because of environmentally insensitive human action, the forces of nature conspired to set in motion the dramatic process of climate change,” Ramaphosa said.
“It is by conscious human action that its effects can and will be mitigated and ultimately reversed.”
South Africa’s current minister of environmental affairs is Nomvula Mokoyane. Several opposition speakers called for her head after she was mentioned by whistleblower Angelo Agrizzi in his explosive testimony at the Zondo Commission about the Bosasa-scandal. Allegations of corruption and mismanagement plagued her term as minister of water affairs and sanitation. Ramaphosa didn’t address these issues in his reply.
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