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Project 3: Environment & Energy

Over the past three years we have seen a significant number of initial steps in policy development in the areas of just energy transition, climate change legislation, and efforts to attain energy security. Most of these developments are still in their early stages and it will be a long time before they are fully effected. For example:

  • The Climate Change Bill was passed by Parliament last year, but subsequent regulations to enact the legislation are yet to be passed.
  • The Just Transition Framework was developed by the Presidential Climate Commission and adopted by Parliament in the last year, and it has led to much on-going work, including consultations with various stakeholders, reviews of inter-linking policy documents, and the development of funding mechanisms to construct the framework.
  • There was an urgent review in 2022 of some of the electricity regulations to enable increased generation capacity by both municipalities and private stakeholders so as to close the gap between demand and the capacity of the state-owned electricity company (Eskom) to meet that demand .

In the coming years these, and numerous other policy and legislative developments in the fields of environment and energy, will call for the Church’s considered response and support.

Alongside the necessary processes of transition, much consideration must be given to achieving efficient, clean, circular, collaborative and low-carbon economic growth. South Africa must build a conducive policy environment that encourages new sectors that offer more significant and safe investment opportunities in order to create much-needed jobs and to grow the prosperity of our country.

It is also important not to lose sight of other pressing environmental challenges. Our fresh water resources are vulnerable, due to both changing rainfall patterns and pollution by acid mine drainage in some areas and poor waste-water treatment in others. Plastic pollution and inefficient recycling programmes are problematic.

Food security is a further problem, with agricultural production affected by uncertain electricity supplies and significant increases in input costs, especially diesel. Climate change is also predicted to have a negative effect on rainfall in the areas where most of our staple foods such as maize and wheat are grown.

Sub-themes for this Project:

  1. Just Energy Transition – A just energy transition will continue to be a dominating policy question in South Africa and globally, as the struggle for energy security continues. Load-shedding (rotational power cuts) will be part of our energy planning for the foreseeable future, and hundreds of thousands of jobs in coal and related industries must be replaced with jobs in sustainable energy sectors.
  2. Climate Finance – With the increasing effects of climate change, there is a need for urgent adaptive action. Developing funding models for business and other stakeholders is an essential part of mobilising finance for both climate mitigation and adaptation. Mobilising local financial resources and developing tools for facilitating international funding should be government’s key focus in climate change response policy.
  3. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – Poor sanitation compromises clean water and therefor people’s health, and in South Africa proper sanitation continues to be a challenge, especially in schools, rural areas and peri-urban settlements. This has always been a water scarce country, and the situation is now being exacerbated by climate change, poor water management and use, and infrastructure deficiencies.
  4. Green Economy – The slowly progressing movement away from fossil fuels prompts alternative ways of thinking about and growing economies. Considerations for sustainable development through nature-based solutions will require innovative new policy approaches so as to help build an efficient, clean, circular, and low carbon economy, popularly referred to as the ‘green economy’.
  5. Sustainable Food Systems – The COVID-19 crisis highlighted some of the main challenges and gaps in global food systems; these threaten food security, as witnessed in struggling communities during government lockdowns. There is a need to establish and encourage local food production and distribution to enable accessibility and affordability.