Durban — The KwaZulu-Natal government has intensified its drive to become a leading force in the creation of a greener economy.
The provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism hosted its first Green Economy Research Conference at the Durban ICC, with the aim of exploring opportunities to upscale economic activities that promote sustainability while protecting the environment.
Sustainable Energy Africa's Megan Euston-Brown said governments were paying more attention to greener economies now following the recent recession. Economies need to be recharged but without the depletion of further resources.
Euston-Brown added that the South African government was very conscious about climate change and the country's resources, therefore taking the necessary measures.
Frikkie Brooks from the KZN Planning Commission said the province had put plans in place for a growth and development strategy for 2030 that would push to achieve seven goals around a green economy. Job creation, environment sustainability and human and community development were some of the goals.
Brooks said now that the developed world was exploring technology and other areas for a green economy, South Africa could not be left behind. He said the country had the potential to come up with solutions that could also assist other African countries.
Brooks said there were independent power producers (IPPs) that could help alleviate power outages but were hindered from doing so because of existing governance and policy framework.
However, government's plans to source energy from IPPs are now underway. Last year during the COP17 conference, the Department of Energy received 53 bids to provide renewable energy. The successful bidders will be announced around June.
Acting HOD at the Department of Economic Development and Tourism Sibusiso Myeza said government alone could not create a green economy. He said input from the private sector was needed, but government had to set a framework in which they could operate effectively.
Brooks said the cash injection into the province from the provincial budget, which would be utilised for major projects, must also include elements that help to create a green economy.
He was referring to the Durban port project and rail and road initiatives - the latter mentioned by Premier Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday during his State of the Province Address.
The two-day conference will focus on supporting green development in sectors of health, job creation and sustainability.
Thus far, Unilever and the South African Sugar Association have explained how their visions could contribute to a green economy.
Unilever, which operates in 180 countries, wants to half its carbon foot print in the next 10 years.
The company has built its first green manufacturing plant for South Africa. Unilever representative Ross Plumbley said the company recycled 60 percent of its waste and was looking at ways to address the 40 percent that goes to landfill sites.
The South African Sugar Association has been liaising with several government departments to contribute to the production of renewable energy.
Last year, KZN Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu said at the South African Sugar Association Development Indaba that bio-fuels were becoming an increasingly important source of energy globally.
"Finding ways of utilising sugar cane bi-products towards the production of bio-fuels is, therefore, germane to the advancement of economic development in the province".