Sandy Carroll
Sandy Carroll

Kortbroek, my hero

Let it not be said that our minister in charge of environmental affairs is a tight-lipped, ignorant piece of political flotsam. Sure he has a bit of a fish bone in the cupboard, related to perpetually interesting alliances, but he also has vision and strength of conviction, strong leadership qualities.

So, our honourable minister indicated that South Africans better expect carbon taxes and incentives for the development of clean-energy technologies and options. Which means that, yes, on top of Eskom’s current rate-hike plans, there is a good chance that unsuspecting users of electricity will end up paying an additional premium for the privilege of using fossil-fuel products.

I say: “It’s about bloody time!” Unless we as users and customers start demanding clean energy and responsible climatic behaviour and actively promoting the implementation and use of clean energy, we should pay for all those externality impacts that power generation in this country causes.

These externalities include environmental damage and costs associated with health and safety incidents and events as a result of burning coal and generating large ash disposal heaps.

Besides the climate-change debate, other nefarious components associated with our dirty dollar (fossil fuel) economy — such as sulphurous emissions and particles too tiny to perceive with the naked eye but not too tiny to affect human health (I’m thinking lungs, blood, respiratory tract …) — are pumped out during the process of combusting fossil fuels.

South Africa has one of the highest per capita emissions volumes (we’re definitely in the top five), meaning that we are slowly poisoning ourselves on this beautiful continent and affecting a wealth of other people who have no direct hand in causing this. Believe me, we’re not alone, thanks to China, the US, Australia … how did South Africa come to lead the pack together with these perpetrators? We have, after all, ratified the Kyoto Protocol, not so?

Well, some positive news: South Africa will be getting emissions-reduction targets if everything goes according to plan, which means that every person, business, industry and other collective will have to start actively reducing emissions related to their actions and activities. Bye bye, cheap electricity; hello, taxes and targets — negative incentives, maybe, but necessary.

Let’s see how December’s COP pans out and whether the five up-and-coming developing nations on the planet can stand together to mitigate against climate change. Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa are mostly on board, according to rumour, which leaves only China — quite a challenge, some might say, but it has surprised before with its foresight and leadership.

My fingers are crossed. May South Africa have reduction targets post-2012; may the government regulate and enforce carbon taxes and clean-energy incentives; may Eskom pro-actively drive technology development and implementation; may the EU and other developed nations enable faster and more efficient clean-energy technology transfer; may we as a nation constructively participate in the revolutionary redesign of the energy industry and live happily ever after.

Thanks, Minister van Schalkwyk, for driving what should have been done years ago. How did the government only get briefed on climate change two years ago?! I guess that’s a topic for another day …

The National Business Initiative and Incite Sustainability have taken the lead and results of the first Carbon Disclosure Project Report for South Africa is available. This includes disclosures by some of the JSE Top 40. Read more here.

Let the revolution begin.