Green accord gets Cosatu nod

2011-11-17 13:00

Labour federation Cosatu’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi today gave government’s Green Economy Accord the thumbs-up, saying it was a step towards a more labour-intensive jobs market.

Speaking at the signing of the accord in Cape Town, he said the Congress of SA Trade Unions and others had long been saying the structure of South Africa’s economy was too reliant on heavy industry and the country’s banks.

“This [the accord] is part and parcel of turning that economy around and moving it away from the capital-intensive and shifting it to the labour intensive sectors of the economy,” Vavi said.

“This is about building a new economy based on meeting the basic needs of our people.”

The Green Economy Accord is a partnership between government, labour, business and community organisations, aimed at encouraging investment in the green economy and creating 300 000 jobs over the next decade.

It involves 10 ministries, including energy, economic development, environmental affairs, finance, trade and industry, labour, public enterprises, transport, rural development and agriculture. Several ministers were present at Thursday’s signing ceremony.

On jobs, Vavi said that while the figure of 300 000 might “look like a small contribution” in the context of the country’s 25% unemployment rate, it was significant.

“We are looking at 300,000 [jobs] as the opening bid, and not just the totality of jobs that will be created by the green economy.”

He said the significance of the accord for Cosatu, the country’s biggest trade union federation, was its potential to help address one of the primary challenge facing South Africa – creating job opportunities for the unemployed.

“The train is turning slowly to the right direction,” Vavi said, adding that there was still a long way to go before it was on course.

Speaking at the event, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel jokingly told those present that Vavi’s words were Cosatu-speak for a “ringing endorsement” of the plan.

The signing of the accord by the partners comes 11 days ahead of the opening of COP-17 in Durban.

Patel described it – the fourth accord to flow from his so-called new growth path economic plan – as a “comprehensive response to the challenge of climate change”.

According to a document handed to journalists at the signing ceremony, economic opportunities in the green economy are many and varied.

They exist in the manufacturing, construction and installation of renewable energy plants, including solar panels, wind-turbine blades and electricity inverters, among other things.

“In energy efficiency, there is the local manufacture and installation of solar water heaters, including collectors, metal frames, glass, geysers and piping.

“In recycling, there are significant opportunities for the creation of small enterprises aimed at beneficiating waste at landfill sites – building rubble into bricks, plastic into planks... and using landfill gas.”

Further, there were business opportunities in the transport and bio-fuels sectors.

The accord includes 12 commitments by partners to foster and develop various areas of the green economy.

Among these, is one to ensure the installation of one million solar water heaters in homes by 2014. Progress to date at house hold level is 140 000 systems installed.

Another is a commitment to developing new sources of funding and finance for green ventures.

“The Industrial Development Corporation will set aside a capital allocation of R22 billion for green projects over the next five years, and a further R3 billion will be made available for manufacturing of green products
and components,” according to the document.

On renewable energy, it says government will “secure commitments for the supply of 3,725 MW of renewable energy by 2016”.

The accord also looks at so-called “clean coal” technologies, and commits government to “support the advancement” of projects such as underground coal gasification, currently being looked at by Eskom, as well as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

“Business and government recognise CCS as a potential greenhouse mitigation option in a number of sectors and commit to its implementation,” it says.

About 90% of South Africa’s electricity is produced in coal-fired power stations, the country’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

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