Green technology is essential to guarantee South Africa's energy security and reduce reliance on imported oil, Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said in Pretoria West.
Speaking at the launch of a public-private pilot test project for an emission-free electric car, Molewa said the world needed to adapt to a changing climate and rising temperatures.
"We are in big trouble.... Look around you, not just in South Africa, but around the world. We are in trouble," said Molewa. "We emphasise: we are in a crisis situation."
Cars add to carbon emissions
With the transport sector contributing around 20% of worldwide carbon emissions, electric cars represented a "green transition" in the automotive industry, and an opportunity to be exploited.
"The transition to a low-carbon and sustainable economy can create large numbers of green jobs across many sectors of the economy," said Molewa. "[It] can become an engine of development."
Four of the test electric cars would be placed with the water and environment department to use and test over the next three years.
The cars would be charged via charging stations.
"The future for urban car ownership and driving is definitely green," she said.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters, speaking before Molewa, said the project formed part of the government's pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent by 2020.
"The time to just talk has passed. We need action," said Peters. "One of targets is to ensure we invest in the green economy.... A journey of 1 000 miles starts with the first step and this is the first step."
She said that it was also important that green technology, like the pilot project, be produced in South Africa. "Whatever technology we want to deploy, we want to ensure that it is locally procured," said Peters. "Electric vehicles offer our country over a period of time [a way] to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."
Peters said the government sought to alter fuel composition for the benefit of public health and the environment, with upgrades to fuel refineries for this purpose to cost R40 billion.
"While public funding might be tight, we must nor reduce our ambitions," she said.