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Thursday, 18 August 2016 11:22

Climate change and renewable energy: Where does your favorite party stand?

In light of the catastrophic threats posed by climate change, Greenpeace has analysed the top three political party’s manifesto’s to understand their stance on clean energy, and climate change. The impacts of climate change have already been felt in South Afric over the proceeding eight months with the current drought conditions leading to water scarcity across the country and escalating food costs. Thus political parties stance on energy and their position on climate change is of utmost importance to all South Africans and the country itself.
ANC

The ANC manifesto touches on some key areas in terms of energy and climate change, of particular relevance is one of their key commitments for the next five years which commits to “expanding the electrification programme to the remaining areas and rolling out solar energy in certain areas”. Unfortunately this is the only specific reference to the role out of renewable energy in the ANC manifesto and it is nowhere near ambitious enough. The ANC has also committed to “ensuring that municipalities incorporate science and technology into their programmes as a catalyst for local economic development and that they deploy innovations” which is a welcome sentiment. However, the only example of an innovation given is that of hydrogen fuel cell technology which is obscure as this technology has not been used to any great extent globally and is not proven to develop and strengthen local economies.

Climate change is listed as a separate section in the manifesto which suggests this is an issue the ANC takes seriously. The ANC states that “we shall work together to help all municipalities adapt to changing climatic conditions” and goes on to list the measures they are proposing[1]. However the measures listed read very much like a general policy document and do not provide detailed answers as to the concrete measures required to adapt to and mitigate climate change, nor does the party manifesto mention the role of coal as a major driver of climate change. It is unclear from the information provided whether the ANC has the ability to implement meaningful measures to address or avoid the worst impacts of climate change facing South Africa.

EFF

In terms of energy, the EFF’s primary focus is on electricity delivery and its Manifesto specifically states that EFF-run municipalities will increase and sustain their capacity to provide electricity to all households, corporations and public spaces. The EFF aims to achieve 100% electrification of every household within EFF-run municipalities within the 5 years of being in power, and makes the clear statement that they will “aggressively pursue alternative forms of green and clean energy, including solar and wind energy to electrify households and install street lights and robots.” This is a very strong and ambitious statement and is more in line with the kind of language we need from political parties, given the significant opportunities offered by renewable energy. However, more detail is required to fully assess what this would look like in reality. The EFF manifesto does not specifically mention climate change, which is a missed opportunity in terms of explicitly stating how the party would deal with an issue that will impact government and the country at all levels. It is unclear from the information provided whether the EFF has the ability to implement meaningful measures to address or avoid the worst impacts of climate change facing South Africa.

DA
The DA proposes to ensure the provision of quality services to all their residents through “sound financial management, by adopting innovative solutions to challenges faced, and reprioritising resources to where they are needed most”.  The DA specifically mentions the improvement of the lives of those living in informal settlements by striving to provide off-the-grid and hard-to-reach households with solar and other technologies, such as rain-water harvesting tanks, that can improve standards of living[2].

The DA states that they will lead by example through the provision of energy efficiency plans with targets for official buildings and public spaces. Other interventions that the DA proposes include:

1.Moving towards the installation of energy efficient lighting, such as LEDs and solar power, in all public spaces;
2.Setting targets in new low-cost housing developments for the installation of solar water heaters;
3.Lobbying national government to allow people and businesses to sell their excess wind and solar-generated electricity to the grid for consumption by other users, benefitting both residents and the local economy by ensuring stable electricity; and
4.Constantly developing innovative and cost-effective ways to manage waste, including investigations into the viability of waste-to electricity initiatives.
The DA does not specifically discuss issues around climate change and how they propose that South African cities or municipalities mitigate and adapt to face the threat of climate change, which is a missed opportunity. It is unclear from the information provided whether the DA has the ability to implement meaningful measures to address or avoid the worst impacts of climate change facing South Africa.


What does all of this mean?

It is interesting to note that all three political parties speak directly to the provision of electricity to all South Africans but only make passing reference to renewable energy. It is therefore unclear as to how any of the parties would provide electricity to all South Africans. None of the parties have taken a clear stand in their manifestos on the other forms of energy currently debated in South Africa, namely coal, nuclear and fracked gas. These issues are of particular relevance at the local government level as these projects would need to be developed within certain municipalities in South Africa. These issues also speak directly to job creation and the type of jobs each party sees as the future for South Africans. It is misleading for parties to pay lip service to renewable energy without addressing any of the other highly debated forms of energy and what future they envisage for South Africa. It is important to note that both the ANC and EFF have strong pro-nuclear aspirations in their National (founding) manifestos. The ANC furthermore has clearly articulated ambitions to exploit the countries coal resources. The National manifesto is the overarching governing document of the party.


[1.]

1. Encouraging all municipalities to work with national departments to embark on research on changing climatic conditions and possible risks to their adaptation and sustainability;
2. Ensuring that municipalities work with national and provincial government in the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation measures;

3. Strengthening municipal plans that are aimed at reducing the negative impact of changing environmental conditions and taking advantage of new opportunities that may be presented;

4. Establishing and developing municipal capacity to manage disaster risks that may be presented by changing climate;

5. Introducing innovative technologies and energy sources that are free of harmful emissions such as hydrogen fuel cells, solar power and wind energy;

6. Undertaking youth initiatives as part of municipal efforts to adapt to changing climatic conditions; and

7. Defining the role of communities in municipal efforts to adapt and remain sustainable under changing environmental conditions.

[2.] An example is provided of the Kleinmond Housing Project where efficient building methods were used to construct and provide services to the homes so that they can meet their own energy and water needs through solar water heaters, PV panels, rainwater harvesting tanks and other sustainable technologies. Pilot projects such as the Kleinmond housing project are a good first step but there is no indication in the manifesto as to how this would be rolled out on a larger scale.


http://www.greenpeace.org/africa/en/News/news/Climate-change-renewable-energy-municipal-elections-2016/