Elections 2009 is upon us! So is Earth Day – 22nd April! One of our regular contributors, David Le Page, explores which South African political party is the greenest of them all.
So if you want to identify the greenest party to vote for on Wednesday 22, how do you choose?
It’s easy to get distracted by headline issues like climate changes, our electricity supply squeeze, pressures on water and differing approaches to agriculture. But will, for example, a commitment to renewable energy and public transport, to reforming the use of water in South African agriculture and to public transport, be enough to ensure that we build sustainable development “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
There are, perhaps, three levels at which to assess this:
1) Headline green policies and proposals, such as support for renewable energy and sustainable agriculture.
2) Current activism: which parties are most involved in action on environmental and sustainability issues at local and regional government level?
3) Deep sustainability: which party understands what is required to create a society in which sustainability takes root?
Headline green policies
Many ordinary South Africans, probably due to the poor quality of journalism on the subject, still doubt whether global warming caused by climate change is a real problem.
Politicians, however, are no longer in doubt about this, and all the main political parties recognise the reality of climate change as a consequence of human activity.
What’s more, all the leading parties say they want a much increased place for renewable energy, principally wind and solar, in our energy mix. The DA still sees a role for nuclear energy in the mix, but has also recently expressed increasing skepticism about the value of Eskom’s proposed pebble bed modular reactor (the PBMR).
At Polokwane, the ANC resolved that “immediate action by all government and the public as a whole is needed” to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which it proposes to do by: increasing energy efficiency, increased use of renewable energy, especially solar power, and taxing the emission of greenhouse gases (which Finance Minister Trevor Manuel started doing in the last budget).
The Department of Environment Affairs & Tourism has also recently started to look more seriously at our issues of water quality, and acid mine drainage. Its minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, has been vocal about the need to deal with matters of climate change. There are at least a couple of possible problems with the ANC’s policies.