Business Day (Johannesburg)

14 August 2002

South Africa: Greenpeace Hopeful of Summit's Success

Johannesburg — THERE were factors that pointed to a more desirable outcome for civil society at Johannesburg's World Summit on Sustainable Development in comparison to its 1992 predecessor. But there was still only hope, said Steve Sawyer of Greenpeace International yesterday.

He said the quantity, quality and severity of climate change as illustrated, for instance, by floods, had now penetrated public consciousness. There was also a growing convergence of opinion between nongovernmental organisation (NGOs), governments and business of the need for urgent action.

"We find ourselves fighting side by side with business at times," said Sawyer.

He said NGOs and business agreed at times on issues such as the actions or lack of action by governments.

With regards to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement designed to tackle global warming and climate change, Sawyer said it was not an issue of "if" but "when". Governments spent the past four years trying to reach consensus.

While the protocol was still inadequate in the opinion of Greenpeace, it was seen to represent a step forward, he said.

The organisation hoped for a commitment to be inked at the summit this month to provide energy access, in the next 10 years, to 2 -billion people worldwide who are without electricity. Another target was to have 10% of global energy generated through renewable energy by 2010.

Speaking at a pre-summit conference on sustainable energy hosted by the Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Partnership (SECCP), Sawyer was more optimistic about renewable energy developments worldwide in terms of wind power. "Some of these have actually hit economic take-off," he said.

At present consumption levels, it was now predicted that 24% of the world's electricity could be generated through wind power by 2020. "Wind power growth has dramatically outstripped expectations," said Sawyer.

It was the fastest-growing energy sector with the 25000 MW of wind power installed worldwide last year, growing to about 30 000 MW.

Mary Metcalfe, Gauteng's agriculture, conservation, environment and land affairs MEC, who also spoke at the event yesterday, stressed the potential of renewable energy to support the development of microenterprises, particularly in rural areas, as well as improving the lives and health of women and children.

She said that in Gauteng, the political position of the African National Congress called for a target of 10% renewable energy within 10 years.

SECCP-project co-ordinator Richard Worthington, said they wanted commitment of 20% of global primary energy from renewable recourses by 2020.

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