18 November 2011
The South African government, business and labour have signed a new accord – one of the most comprehensive social partnerships on “green” economy development in the world – geared to create 300 000 jobs within the next 10 years.
The groundbreaking Green Economy Accord, signed by various ministers in both Cape Town and Pretoria on Thursday, has the backing of South Africa’s three labour federations, whose membership together accounts for more than two-million workers.
These are the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), the Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa), and the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu).
Ten ministers actively involved in the development of the agreement include the Ministers of Environmental Affairs, Transport, Trade and Industry and Labour.
The agreement comes ahead of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, starting in Durban on 28 November.
‘South Africans are drawing together’
Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, who led the proceedings during the signing ceremony, said the accord showed that government’s social partners were ready for COP 17.
The parties to the accord had agreed to work with the government during and after the conference.
“The green economy can create a large number of jobs, provide a spur for industrialisation and help to create a sustainable future for this and the next generations,” Patel said.
“This accord is one in a series of agreements in which social partners commit to work to achieve the goals of the New Growth Path. South Africans are drawing together to achieve common national objectives.”
Key points in the accord include the government’s commitment to install one-million solar water heaters by 2014/15, as well as to procure 3 725 MW of renewable energy – more than the energy usage of Cape Town – for use in the national grid by 2016.
The Industrial Development Corporation will provide funding of up to R25-billion for investments in the green economy over the next five years.
The agreement also commits business to develop benchmarks in support of the National Energy Efficiency Strategy.
It commits state electricity company Eskom to consider new technologies that could improve the energy efficiency of its coal-fired power plants.
Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said South Africa generated 90 percent of its energy from coal, and the government was promoting a move to “clean coal” through carbon capture and storage, among other means.
‘The train is turning in the right direction’
Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi said they were excited about the accord, which would see South Africa relying less on its capital-intensive mining sector and more on manufacturing in order to create jobs.
“The train is turning slowly [in] the right direction … we like the direction the train is facing,” Vavi said after the signing ceremony in Cape Town.
He said that while the 300 000 jobs target might seem small, this was going to be a platform for more job creation in future.
In support of the agreement, he said, Cosatu would establish work-based committees to educate workers on saving energy, as well as “green” retirement investments.
‘Opportunities in bio-fuels’
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson said the new accord promised to create investment and job opportunities in South Africa’s bio-fuels sector.
She said that development of this sector would not compromise the country’s food security. For example, she said, sorghum, sugar-beet and jatropha could be used to make bio-fuels.
Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele said the government would be invest billions of rands in improving the passenger rail system to ensure that South Africans moved away from travelling by cars to using trains.
The Transport Department would also be improving the country’s freight rail system to ensure that fewer goods went by road.
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said his department was pulling SA’s universities and its Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas) together to ensure that their projects supported the green economy by, among other things, growing the number of artisans in the country.