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Thursday, 14 July 2016 12:54

Bold leadership is needed on the path to a more equitable and sustainable economy

South Africa is a country that is disproportionally affected by the consequences of global warming. Our coast

has been identified as one of the regions in the world at highest risk of flooding and studies estimate that

wildfires burn approximately 3 million hectares per year.

“Longer dry spells and rising temperatures would only increase that risk,” warns Mario Molina, International

Director of The Climate Reality Project. Molina is one of a powerful line-up of internationally recognised

climate change and sustainability leaders to address the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) Convention

in Johannesburg this July.

An advocate for bold green leadership globally, Mario has worked extensively developing public-private

partnerships for Climate Reality, briefed business and government officials on climate and energy policy, and on

the critical role of finance in accelerating a clean energy transition.
 
Mario spearheads former US Vice President and Climate Reality Chairman Al Gore’s international policy, advocacy,

and communications programme strategies, leveraging cross-sector partnerships to advance implementation of

Nationally Determined Contributions to the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) agreement to take collective

action to limit average global warming to under 2 degrees centigrade.

Before joining Climate Reality, Mario was responsible for the design, operation and management of the Alliance

for Climate Education, working in nearly 30 cities across the US in the development of climate science curricula

and energy efficiency projects. Prior to his work in the US, he developed several sustainability and

conservation programmes in Australia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, and Peru.

Molina and climate scientists are unanimous in their findings: this is the decade to take decisive action to

prevent catastrophic global warming.

He explains that, as one of over 175 nations signed onto the COP 21 Paris agreement, South Africa will need to

submit its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation

strategies for vulnerable populations according to its capabilities.

“This historic agreement is the best opportunity the world has to avoid catastrophic climate change, build

resiliency into our communities, and transition to a clean energy economy,” says Molina.

It will take bold leadership to set South Africa on a more sustainable course, and do this without delay. Molina

reports that in its NDC, South Africa is expected to recognise the importance of adapting to the unavoidable

impacts of climate change, and the need for international support through funding and technology transfer.

“The importance of progress towards implementation of the NDC’s cannot be overstated.” To achieve its Paris

commitment and meet its development goals, Molina notes that South Africa has a big task ahead.

Molina adds, “South Africa will need to modernise its energy policies and infrastructure, attract capital

towards low-carbon and efficient technologies in all sectors, and build the capacity of its institutions through

climate education and readiness. Currently, the country is heavily reliant on coal as a fuel supply and this

dependency is nearing the end of its lifecycle.”

On the other hand, Molina reports the renewables market in the country is poised for growth. In 2014, South

Africa was rated the most attractive emerging photovoltaic market in the world and its wind industry has seen

unexpected and unprecedented success in the last four years.

South Africa averages more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, and average solar radiation is about 5 kWh/m2

per day, an excellent source of free energy. “The combination of distributed and utility-scale generation of

solar energy could facilitate energy access to communities that are currently not connected to the grid and

provide reliable electricity to urban areas,” notes Molina. “Wind has also proven to be a reliable energy source

at close to zero net cost.”

In the last four years the wind industry in South Africa has become an almost ZAR75 billion ($4.5 billion-USD)

industry with over 1 GW commissioned and another 2.2GW on the way. Millions have been set aside for social and

economic development surrounding windfarms.

Globally, clean energy is currently the biggest market opportunity for the private sector, according to Molina.

But it has other meaningful benefits too. “Investment in low-carbon development can help countries, especially

those in emerging economies, lower emissions and increase resilience to climate change,” he says.

He adds that while the trends are encouraging, the approximately 400 billion USD invested in low-carbon

development in 2014 represents less than half of what will be required to meet the Paris commitment.  

He is optimistic that by leapfrogging fossil-fuel technologies and mobilising capital investment in renewables,

emerging economies can achieve both mitigation and development goals.

Highlighting the importance of bold green leadership, Molina says: “Post-Paris, business and civil society must

remain informed and vigilant while holding governments accountable for implementing policies that hasten a

transition to low-carbon, equitable, and sustainable economies.”

South Africa’s built environment professionals are playing a key role in driving demand for renewable energy

sources in the country. ‘Build a better world NOW’ is the theme of the ninth Green Building Convention, from 26

to 28 July 2016, at Sandton Convention Centre. The event, sponsored by Nedbank Corporate and Investment Bank, is

designed to inspire today’s and tomorrow’s leaders in the built environment and aims to stimulate awareness,

ambition and action to design, build and operate better buildings. Book before 30 June for a 15% discount off

the full ticket price.

* For more information on the Green Building Convention 2016 or to register, go to

www.greenbuildingconvention.org.za

Released on behalf of:
Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA)
Gillian Gernetzky, Communications Manager
Tel:  +27 21 486 7919
www.gbcsa.org.za