This article originally appeared in the 3rd edition of Vision 2030 under the headline ‘Environmental Affairs: Green economy as a sustainable developmental path – An interview with Minister Edna Molewa by Elske Joubert’.


According to the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), South Africa sees green economy as a sustainable development path, addressing the interdependence between economic growth, social protection and the natural ecosystem. The department has been undertaking several programmes and project-level interventions within the green economy space, such as:

  • Non-Motorised Transport Programme (NMT)
  • Switch Africa Green (SAG)
  • National Green Fund (GF)
  • Partnership for Action on the Green Economy (PAGE)
  • Biogas to energy generation from agricultural waste (promotion of SMMEs)
  • Waste Water Treatment Plants (feasibility of renewable energy and energy efficiency in waste water treatment plants [WWTP])
  • Advanced Integrated Solid Waste Management (AISWM)

Non-Motorised Transport Programme

The department identified and established Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) as one of the programmes to contribute towards reduction of the carbon emissions. Phase 1 of the programme is aimed at developing bicycle routes, parking facilities and rental stations in an attempt to influence cycling and invariably reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality and change the mindset of society.

The programme is being implemented in partnership with KfW Development Bank on behalf of the German government, currently being implemented in:

  • eThekwini Metropolitan
  • City of Johannesburg
  • Polokwane Local Municipality

Switch Africa Green Programme (SAG)

The introduction of the Switch Africa Green is at a time when Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) need to demonstrate action on the ground. SWITCH Africa Green is an EU-funded programme implemented by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS). SWITCH Africa Green has been developed to support African countries in their transition to an Inclusive Green Economy, and in promoting a shift to Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) patterns and practices. Currently, there are seven African countries participating in the programme, including South Africa.
The three broad components for the SA SAG Programme include:

  • Policy Support
  • Green Business Development
  • Networking Facilitation

The three thematic areas are inclusive of waste management, manufacturing and agriculture, against which eight grantee proposals
were successful in Phase 1. Phase 2 proposals are undergoing an evaluation process. Phase 1 investment was for approximately
$1.5-million, for South Africa.

The National Green Fund

Government allocated R1.195-billion for the period of 2012–2019 for the establishment and operation of the Green Fund. The focus of the finance is to incubate innovation and ideas, and where those exist provide the catalytic funding required to initiate project implementation. The Green Fund is also aimed at testing a finance mechanism that will provide catalytic finance support to a variety of interventions to inform government’s vision of transitioning to a green economy.

The three thematic areas of the Green Fund are:

  • Low carbon economy
  • Green cities and towns
  • Environmental and natural resource management

To date, a total of 55 projects have been approved from all three Green Fund thematic areas, with a total value of approximately R1 126 250 446. A total of 31 investment projects have been approved. Currently, a total of 6 620 direct jobs have been created through the various projects that are currently under implementation.

Partnership for Action on the Green Economy (PAGE)

The PAGE Programme is a legacy programme of Rio +20. In March 2015, South Africa joined the global programme, Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE), a UN-programme that brings together the expertise of five UN agencies to support countries and regions to put sustainability at the heart of economic policies and practices to advance the 2030 Agenda.

The intention of the PAGE partnership is to further strengthen the cooperation, coordination and capabilities required to implement the country’s transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient and pro-employment development path. The PAGE Programme for South Africa has three main objectives:

  • To contribute to better policy coordination, strengthen dialogue and help deepen collaboration in green economy policy, planning and implementation processes
  • To identify potential and enabling factors for selected green economy sectors and/or industrial segments with the intent of promoting sector reform
  • To strengthen capabilities through enhanced green economy training, learning and knowledge sharing, including support for national learning institutions in South Africa

Biogas to Energy Generation from Agricultural Waste (promotion of SMMEs)

This programme aims to promote market-based adoption of integrated biogas technology in small, medium and micro-scale enterprises (SMMEs) in South

Africa in support of government priorities, minimise greenhouse gas emissions, and alleviate poverty. The programme is funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by UNIDO. The total amount of R54-million has been allocated to the programme. The programme commenced in 2016 and will continue for four years.

The programme comprises five components:

  • Policy support
  • Capacity development and training
  • Pilot project implementation
  • Scale up
  • Monitoring and evaluation

Waste Water Treatment Plants

The programme aims to draw awareness to the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency in waste water treatment plants, given that the plants operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Therefore, with the majority of the plants having aging infrastructure, moving towards being energy efficient and off-grid would reduce municipal energy bills.

Total budget is for an amount of R20-million and the funds have been provided by the European Union. The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) is the executing agent and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) has been appointed as the implementing agent of the programme. The two participating municipalities are:

  • Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality
  • !Kheis Local Municipality

Advanced Integrated Solid Waste Management

The Advanced Integrated Solid Waste Management Programme began in 2006, with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs coordinating the programme given the municipal focus. However, the programme was transferred to the DEA in 2012 as waste management and related matters fall within the department’s mandate. DEA continued the work from the findings of the feasibility study on the potential uptake of advanced technologies in addressing waste management. Business plans were developed for three municipalities. The programme ended in March 2017 with the donor partner. However, the implementation of the business plans is currently being undertaken in partnership with the branch: Environmental Programmes. Three participating municipalities are:

  • Impendle Local Municipality
  • Umngeni Local Municipality
  • Mshwathi Local Municipality

The total project value is approximately R25-million.

South Africa is participating in the second International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2) to gather marine data. This expedition will take place from 2017 to 2020 and will be led by scientists based at the DEA. Can you comment on the expected outcomes of the expedition?

The expedition to be undertaken by South Africa, the first of many, into the Indian Ocean was designed in consultation with scientists from countries in the region like Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, etc. in order to address regional scientific priorities. The cruises to be undertaken over the next few years will gather a number of essential ocean parameters ranging from heat, salt, currents all the way to biodiversity.

That means that all countries can work towards creating a baseline assessment of what the ocean is doing, what the ocean contains and from there we can monitor how all these parameters are changing and the potential effects they have on the ocean, impacts on the people and economies of the region. Our research vessels will work from the south heading north, the Kenyan vessel will work from the north to the south – so for the first time African research vessels will operate in a coordinated way and meet in the waters off Tanzania.

This information will kick-start a process of ocean management, conservation and protection, but also give us an idea of our potential Ocean Economies as a region, very much like we have started in South Africa. This is an opportunity for our regional African scientists and students to drive an African agenda based on African priorities using African infrastructure.

South Africa was chosen as the venue for the first Global Youth in Biodiversity Network (GYBN) where youth from 18 African countries working in the conservation and biodiversity fields attended. The GYBN aims to raise awareness among the youth in relation to the values of biodiversity. What role can the youth play in biodiversity conservation?

The youth has a very important role to play in biodiversity conservation, particularly because they are our future leaders. Through the Global Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Crime Prevention for Sustainable Development Child Project, it is hoped to address especially the illegal wildlife trade as the key, and most immediate, threat to biodiversity conservation.

The proposed project supports the existing South African Rhino Protection Programme, which is a South African component of the broader Strategic Bilateral Biodiversity Conservation Programme. The SA Rhino Protection Programme (which is a partnership programme launched by DEA and PPF has already secured $22.6-million from various donors and anticipates additional support from other international donors such as the German government through KfW.

The importance of youth in conservation is evident from the launch of the Youth Environment programme by South Africa as a legacy project of the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP17), held in Johannesburg in 2016. This programme mobilises youth participation in conservation. A total of 407 youth from all nine provinces have participated in the roll-out of the Youth Conservation Programme in its first year of operation. CoP17 also marked the adoption of the first-ever resolution by CITES on youth, engagement and empowerment on matters of conservation and CITES specifically.

In March 2017, the theme of World Wildlife Day 2017 was “Listen to the Young Voices” – a theme aimed at encouraging young people to safeguard wildlife for future generations. It was an opportunity to incentivise the youth to be inspired and have the ability to work towards demand reduction strategies and thus curb the illicit trade in wildlife. It was also an opportunity to encourage debate around issues of ecological sustainability in the use of, and benefits derived from, wildlife.

Additional work being done includes:

  • Establishing a pool of young wildlife professionals. This activity will focus on identifying and appointing a pool of 12-15 young professionals with an interest and acumen for wildlife trade.
  • Hosting annual training courses to provide young professionals with a solid understanding of wildlife trade, different wildlife management systems, the role of science in ensuring sustainable trade and increasing the knowledge of young professionals of illicit activities and how these activities intersect with legal trade. This will be combined with leadership training.
  • Introducing accelerated experiential learning through field expeditions aimed at overcoming the challenge faced by young and inexperienced scientists when faced with the challenge of determining whether a proposed trade is legal or illegal. The field expeditions are intended to expose them to a wide range of wildlife management systems so they gain first-hand experience of the sorts of issues that will come across their desks when they are making decisions. The expeditions will also be linked to focused interactions with policymakers and scientists from other countries to see how other countries deal with the scientific governance of wildlife trade.

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