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Moving Towards a Green Economy

2 December 2011 Organized by South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs in collaboration with UNEP, the objective of the event was to present and discuss a green economy modelling that South Africa is undertaking with the support of UNEP. H.E. Ms. Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister for Water and Environmental Affairs opened the event and presented the context in which South Africa was taking this initiative to conduct a quantitative assessment of its green economy effort. 

The Deputy Minister remarked that for South Africa the National framework for sustainable development is the basis upon which the green economy is being promoted. South Africa approved a new National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD) in November 2011 for the period 2011-2014. Moving towards a green economy is of the five priorities in the NSSD. She noted that in November, government, business, organised labour and civil society approved a Green Economy Accord of one of a series of accords among social actors to pursue the objectives of the New Growth Path. The Vice-Minister praised UNEP for its support to South Africa and for other partners joining UNEP in its engagement with South Africa on green economy. 

Mr. Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson for UNEP Executive Director and Acting Director of UNEP's Communications Division presented opening remarks on behalf of UNEP, highlighting UNEP’s appreciation of the opportunity to be working closely with South Africa in moving forward its green economy agenda. Mr. Nuttall remarked that a number of initiatives from around Africa are demonstrating that Green Economy is being put into national contexts and that countries have numerous ways of advancing the green economy in the context of the up-coming Rio+20 conference. He noted that Rio+20 provides and opportunities to advance policies in the area of subsidy reform, government procurement, scaling up investments in clean energy to benefit the poor, and to reconsider indicators and instruments of measuring development and progress beyond GDP.   

Mr. Cecil Morden, Chief Director, Economic Tax Analysis, National Treasury (NT) of South Africa indicated that NT has been working closely with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) on green economy, in particular how to restructure taxation and environmental fiscal reform to support environmental sustainability.

Mr. Morden stressed that South Africa needs to ensure sustained levels of economic development to achieve growth and poverty reduction. However, there is a clear interest in looking not only at quantitative growth, but also at the quality of growth. NT published a book on EFR in 2006 and in 2010 it proposed a paper on a possible carbon tax, a proposal around which social actors in South Africa are still having consultations. For NT key elements of green growth include continued growth, efficient use of resources, effective resource pricing and internalization of externalities, and subsidy reform. NT is working on these, drawing from the experience of other countries which have demonstrated that depletion of natural resources has negative effects on growth. Mr. Morden noted that while taking bold initiatives South Africa faces challenges related to competitiveness and the potential implications of border tax adjustment that some countries are considering in the context of their response measures to climate change. He noted that debate is still ongoing within South Africa on the issue of earmarking revenue from environmental taxation to support greening initiatives.  

Ms. Mapula Tshangela, Director for Sustainable Development & Green Economy at DEA presented the roadmap for conducting the green economy assessment, priories identified, partners involved and steps that have taken place so far. She noted that South Africa green economy summit held in 2010 was a starting point. Building on that discussions among government and partners such as UNEP led to setting priorities for further work focusing on water, ecosystem services, waste, agriculture, energy, manufacturing, tourism and transport. These will be themes to explore through a green economy modelling. Ms.  Tshangela informed participants that DEA and other departments are working with UNEP, the Sustainability Institute in South Africa, the Millennium Institute, AFD and other partners to produce initial results in the next year and to present a report in March 2012, which South Africa will be able to use in the process towards the Rio+20 conference.  

Mr. Moustapha Kamal Gueye, Acting Head, Green Economy Advisory Services Unit, UNEP, presented to participants the approach that UNEP is employing in supporting national initiatives on green economy in South Africa and other countries, drawing on methodologies, findings and knowledge generated through the Green Economy Report and other research work that UNEP is engaged in.  He described how many other countries in Africa are taking initiatives similar to that of South Africa, demonstrating a keen interest on the green economy that work that UNEP is doing to support Africa in this area.  

Mr. Cleopus Wangombe, Senior Economist at Kenya Ministry of Planning, National Development and Vision 2030 and T21 Kenya Core Team Leader, presented Kenya’s experience in employing the T21 model in its climate change adaptation programme, under the Africa Adaption Programme. Mr. Wangombe presented the Kenya model and results obtained from scenarios developed on the impact of climate change on growth, productivity, and social indicators, and related policy responses, which are serving as a basis for a new green economy modelling that Kenya is working on with UNEP. He shared lessons on success factors from the perspective of Kenya’s experience, underlying the importance of building a solid model, local participation and capacity development, and in particular the institutionalisation of the model, ownership and commitment across government agencies. 

Ms. Isabelle Vincent, Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD) introduced AFD’s portfolio in Africa and expressed AFD’s interest in partnering with UNEP to support South Africa’s work on green economy assessments. Ms. Vincent informed that AFD is already collaborating with UNEP in Mexico through an approach that proved effective and could be considered in South Africa. Mr. Jean-Charles Hourcade, Director of CIRED (Centre International de Recherche sur l’Environnement et le Developpement) and lead author of the IPCC fourth assessment report described the IMACLIM Platform, a modelling tool that CIRED developed and is proposing to BRIC countries. 

Mr. Hourcade noted that often models are generally very optimistic, assuming perfect markets, least cost approach to mitigation etc. which are assumptions very sensitive to factors that such rapid changes in prices and international policy contexts. Mr. Hourcade proposed an intellectual joint venture whereby features of IMACLIM can be integrated into T21 so as to enrich the model and go deeper in the definition of module and the customisation of the model in the context of South Africa to go beyond sector-level categorisations. In addition, this approach could help address issues of short term fluctuations which currently represent a limitation of T21 given the medium-to-long term scenarios that characterise this model. 

Ms. Anna Sanchez, expert on the International Labour Organization (ILO) Green Jobs Programme, described ILO’s engagement in South Africa and the already strong collaborations between the ILO and UNEP in South Africa and other countries. Ms. Sanchez indicated that ILO provided comments on a report on Green Jobs released by the Department of Economic Development just before the COP, and assessing the potential for creating green jobs in South Africa. 

The green jobs report provides background information on targets contained in a Green Economy Accord, that government and social actors in South Africa launched in November 2011, ahead of the COP 17. Ms. Sanchez indicated that the goals and targets on green jobs agreed upon by government and social actors would be useful in informing further assessments on green economy and jobs in South Africa. She presented examples of policies and initiatives integrating social dimensions of a green economy Brazil, Chile and other countries, which offer experiences that could be useful to consider in the context of South Africa.  In particular, Brazil’s social protection policy “my house my life” offers potentially relevant learning for South Africa’s social housing programmes and the integration of social water heaters in such programmes.  

In the discussions and exchanges that followed the panel presentations, several questions, comments and contributions were made on the green economy report, South Africa’s green economy programme and collaboration among various institutions. A delegate from Ghana questioned on how South Africa is seeking to leverage private investment through public spending and the country’s green stimulus. A delegate from Sweden asked about mechanisms of monitoring to help countries measure progress. A delegate from France explained his country’s approach to carbon tax and earmarking of environmental tax revenues and issues that may be important for South Africa to consider.   

Outcome: UNEP agreed with Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) and National Treasury that a next step in the process would be to start engaging with policy makers on the structure of the model, given that technical institutions (Millennium Institute and Sustainability Institute) have started the data collection and design of the basic structure of the T21 for South Africa. It was agreed that a working session between technical institutions and relevant government departments could be scheduled for January 2012 in Pretoria. 

On UNEP side, this could include colleagues in SCP/Energy who may be interested in contributing to defining policy scenarios and policy tools that would be tested.   

Note on South Africa Green Economy Accord 
In November 17th, South Africa unveiled a Green Economy Accord to launch a partnership between the South African government, business community, trade unions and civil society. The Accord is one of a series of accords agreed under South Africa’s New Growth path. As a sort of social pact, the Accord was signed by Ministers of Energy; Water and Environmental Affairs; Economic Development; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Transport; Higher Education and Training; Trade and Industry; Public Enterprises; Public Works; representatives of industry, trade unions and civil society. The Accord set goals and objectives that each of the partners commit to undertake create 300,000 jobs to contribute to the New Growth Path’s objective of creating five million new jobs by 2020; foster innovation and localisation of technology, address climate change and promote the emergence of a green economy.Through the collaboration with UNEP, South Africa’s Ministry of Environment and Water seeks to further contribute to this social dialogue by strengthening the economic case for a green economy in South Africa.

Click here for more information on the South Africa Green Accord.