South Africa can cut its annual greenhouse gas emissions by more than 200 million tons by 2050 without sacrificing economic growth if it uses energy more efficiently, and increases wind and solar power production, Greenpeace has said.
According to Brad Smith(co-author of a new report on South Africa by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council, a Brussels-based campaign group) South Africa could find economic opportunity, becoming the continent's hub for green technologies now more commonly found in North America, Asia and Europe.
"Hopefully, South Africa will develop a home-grown industry and export the technology," said Smith, campaign director for Greenpeace's new Johannesburg-based Africa office.
Rich must help poor
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 are 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 this 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.
Energy is requirement for development
South Africa is the only African nation among the 20 countries that emit nearly 90% of the world's greenhouse gases. But while we are more industrialised than most on the continent, the majority of South Africans are poor, some living without electricity even as the country's coal-fired power plants
contribute to global warming.
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, October 2009)
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