Provincial Climate Change Summit Address
Honourable Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs - Ms Edna Molewa
Provincial Minister of Economic Development, Finance and Tourism: Mr Alan Winde
Acting Deputy Director General: Environmental Affairs: Mr Peter Lukey
Municipal and Provincial Officials
Ladies and gentlemen - all protocol observed
In addition to the socio-economic context that has been described by the Premier of the Western Cape and with due regard to the important factors that have been raised by our various speakers about climate change, one can understand the urgency and need for all stakeholders to focus on identifying feasible solutions to addressing the impact that climate change will have on the communities we serve.
Economic growth and progression is an essential catalyst to improving the socio-economic challenges of our communities.
It is however, important for us as the different spheres of government, as organized business and key social institutions to work together to make informed decisions on how best to address climate change and its identified and proven associated impacts.
Conference delegates, putting in place legislative frameworks to address climate change and its associated impacts only sets the foundation for informed decision making.
The Sustainable Energy Bill, that has been alluded to, will help to outline how the Western Cape plans to move towards a more sustainable energy future.
This will aid government, through the co-operation of the different spheres of government, to address energy security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and certainly make the economy more competitive for the introduction of green technologies.
The Western Cape is one of the areas within South Africa that can expect the highest degree of climate change and will be most adversely affected, with the predicted warming and drying conditions being most apparent in the western part of the region.
Knowing all this has placed certain obligations on the decision makers of the Provincial Government of the Western Cape.
I reiterate the sentiments that the Sustainable Energy Bill is "an instrument of mitigation".
This Bill will empower municipalities to develop and implement sustainable energy strategies and action plans as part of their service delivery mandates to their respective communities.
There is value in all that we do, however the value and efficacy of service delivery is in the ability of implementing real working strategies that can be accepted by all the stakeholders.
The Sustainable Energy Bill focuses on the concept of working relations between the spheres of government. This Bill will require a more vigorous engagement between government and our communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the most important areas that require our attention is the issue of energy poverty.
Combating energy poverty is a social priority that needs to be addressed at all spheres of government and the regulations formulated for the bill, will seek to address this through a proactive approach.
We need to answer one fundamental question: How do we give effect to facilitating and promoting a means to alleviating energy poverty?
In the Western Cape especially, this is a critical area for intervention at industry, private sector and government level. Energy poverty must be considered in the present context of the current economic crisis.
The prices of electricity, gas and other fuels such as coal are still rising. This trend will continue in the succeeding years and so will the number of vulnerable consumers at the mercy of these consistent increases.
While energy poverty affects the energy sector, it also impacts on other sectors such as health, the natural environment, consumer affairs and housing.
The success of this bill, once enacted, will require significant input from local authorities.
The objectives of the bill are closely aligned with the core functions of municipal service delivery imperatives such as health, economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation.
Many local authorities have not yet engaged in sustainable energy planning or the implementation and monitoring of sustainable energy related projects and programmes.
There is a need to become more innovative in our service delivery approaches, especially in terms of addressing the increasing energy demands. Coupled with this is the notion of the bill to encourage municipalities to explore renewable energy options and improve energy education.
Ladies and gentlemen, climate change affects our socio-economic conditions and we need to think of how this impact relates to the issue of food security and agricultural practices.
We need only think of climate change and how increasing temperatures affect the ecosystem balances of various species.
We also need to think about how increased droughts and the intensity of flood events are likely to impact on industries such as agriculture and on our water supplies. Indeed, the deciduous fruit industry may disappear from the Western Cape.
These bear testament to an urgent call for action.
As a Provincial government we will work with relevant departments and municipalities to ensure that climate change adaptation plans are developed and integrated into IDPs.
I have focused on the issue of our increasing energy demands as this is directly related to the significant escalation of carbon emissions.
According to the draft National White Paper on Climate Change, if we continue with economic growth unchecked by climate policy, South Africa's emissions could grow by as much as 400% by 2050.
As a developing country seeking to improve the service delivery challenges of our communities, it has become imperative that we know how best to mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt our socio-economic activities to prevent further extreme environmental ruin.
It is very evident from engagements with municipalities and other spheres of government that limited resources do impede the ability to address climate change related impacts effectively.
It needs to be recognized that mitigation against climate change and adapting for climate change is in fact a core function of municipal government.
Our challenge is to integrate how we address climate change into service delivery programmes and projects, so that we can impact on the general improvement of the livelihoods of our communities.
The Sustainable Energy Bill will, for example, create a renewed way of thinking for our local municipalities to ensure that the energy needs of infrastructure development are extensively considered during planning phases.
The Western Cape Climate Change Response Strategy and Action Plan that was endorsed in 2008 allow us to focus on a strategically integrated approach to managing the impacts of climate change as we cannot address all impacts simultaneously.
We are in the process of reviewing climate change related targets that we as a Provincial government will strive to achieve.
As a Provincial government, we are using the stage of COP17 to raise awareness around and instigate action towards addressing climate change.
In addition to today's summit, we will also be hosting mini summits across the districts for municipal officials and for community groups.
We will also be running a workshop for the media on further understanding climate change, COP17 and local action being taken in the Western Cape to address climate change. We will showcase climate change related projects that are being implemented across the Province at COP itself and also take a Provincial delegation to COP to engage in the debates.
Ladies and gentlemen, each new summit and each new engagement between stakeholders is imperative, however we need to find value in all that we do, we need to go back and understand how best to implement the lessons learnt from these discussions.
Ultimately we need to understand the purpose of why we need to be a mobilized force in an attempt to address climate change and its associated impacts. It can only be through synergized working relations that we become better together as a government and as a people elect.