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Cutting the Carbon Footprint in South Africa

14 December 2011
Author: UNFPA
Cutting the Carbon Footprint in South Africa
A woman who works at a rooibostea farm in South Africa carries a crop. Working collectively, the farmers have been successful marketing the tea locally and abroad, providing a model of economic sustainability. Photo@UNFPA

DURBAN — Innovative approaches are needed to lessen the effects of climate change, help countries adapt to global warming and promote the best use of scarce resources. This is the view of the United Nations agencies in South Africa, expressed at a COP17 side event here on 27 November.

To start, Francois D'Adesky, representative for South Africa and director of the regional office for Southern Africa, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, discussed at the event the reduction of the carbon footprint in South Africa and the transition to a low-carbon economy.

"The Government of South Africa has taken several steps to promote renewable energy programmes," D'Adesky said. "In addition to the renewable energy white paper, it launched the first National Energy Efficiency Strategy in 2005." A review of the strategy is proposing a final energy-demand reduction of 12 per cent by 2015. The strategy also aims to reduce energy use 20 per cent by 2020 and 30 per cent by 2030.

Now that world population has reached 7 billion and it has had an impact on the environment, "we cannot respond effectively to climate change without taking into account population dynamics," said Mark Schreiner, deputy representative for the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, in South Africa.

In a training programme for government leaders and policy makers on the connections between population, environment and development, UNFPA shared best practices of partnering with the South African government and academia since 2005.

In addition, Dr. Erick Ventura, chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration, described his organization's simple yet immediate response to climate change through the creation of keyhole gardens, small multilayered plots that combine composting and plant growth, addressing both food insecurity and community stability in areas affected by migration.

Tea to the rescue

A South African success story is the Heiveld Co-operative, an initiative among Suid Bokkeveld rooibos tea farmers, who collectively market their locally produced organic rooibos. In a joint presentation, Mpho Nenweli, environment and energy manager for the United Nations Development Programme in South Africa, and Khathutshelo Neluheni, national coordinator for the GEF Small Grants Programme, explained that the group has increased its production of rooibos to 71 tonnes in 2008 from 20 tonnes in 2001, as well as expanded its sales to not only Africa but also to Europe, North America and Australia. Locally, it has raised the quality of life for 54 farmers and their families.

Speakers also highlighted the vulnerabilities of specific groups, keeping in mind the gender dimensions of climate change and the impact on migrants and indigenous peoples and how such groups can optimize contributions to climate change solutions.

"It is important to harness the potential of stakeholder groups through innovative information, education and communication approaches, as well as science and technology to address climate change impacts and sources," Agostinho Zacarias, resident representative of UNDP and resident coordinator for the UN country team of South Africa, said.

Over all, the COP17 meeting concluded on a positive note, with major achievements, as governments agreed to adopt a universal legal pact on climate change as soon as possible but not later than 2015.

South Africa
Population : 56.7 mil
Fertility rate
2.4
Maternal Mortality Ratio
138
Contraceptives prevalence rate
66
Population aged 10-24
27%
Youth secondary school enrollment
Boys 59%
Girls 69%