Ways for South Africa to become more environmentally sustainable

Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have rated South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon, environmentally sustainable future as ambitious but slow to get started. They have said that South Africa has ambitious policies which could be highly beneficial to the future of environmental sustainability, but implementing and enforcing these policies has been a drawn-out process.

Even though it has been more than half a decade since the 2011 Green Economy Accord and the 2012 National Development Plan, South Africa is still yet to bring into effect the policies discussed at these summits. It has been shown that South Africa’s ecological footprint continues to exceed the country’s biocapacity and that key biodiversity hotspots remain underdeveloped.

Areas in which South Africa can still improve

Here are a few ways in which South Africa is behind schedule when it comes to environmental sustainability:

  • The South African economy continues to rely on ‘brown’ energy systems and investments.
  • South Africa’s economy is still reliant on industries that are fossil-fired and carbon-intensive.
  • Coal-fired power plants are still responsible for 90% of the electricity generated in South Africa.
  • South Africa is faced with the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and environmental degradation and, as a result, isn’t necessarily able to full embrace and focus on a green economy trajectory.

South Africa is making progress

Research has shown, however, that South Africa’s urban transport systems and manufacturing industries are becoming less resource intensive. There are also more protected and conservation areas than ever before, and there have been a number of key innovations in sustainable finance.

The report undertaken by NGOs in addressing these issues suggests that in order for South Africa’s environmental transition to properly take off, we need to become more aware of the value of the environment. This is especially necessary when it comes to decision-making, the gridlock on energy and transport needs and support for small enterprises.

For an environmentally sustainable transition to be successful in South Africa, key decisions also need to be fully inclusive and benefit people from all sectors and demographics.

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Written by Taryn Hill

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