Transitioning to a low carbon economy is essential for the South African economy, because it is energy intensive and designed around large scale usage of fossil fuels.
This was the message delivered by Nardos Békélé-Thomas, UN resident coordinator in SA to delegates at the 3rd Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) Ministerial Conference in Cape Town.
She said the SA government has made some advances towards a green economy and lauded the late minister of water and environmental affairs Edna Molewa for her contribution in the past.
Békélé-Thomas said the UN initiated Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) said new partnerships need to be formed and new capacities built in order to deliver on environmental goals for the future.
PAGE aims to bring various organisations together to avoid duplication and create a mechanism to coordinate green economy activities.
PAGE further aims to help countries to make good decisions regarding sustainability policies "to lift millions of people out of poverty and reduce gender inequality and inequality in general," she said.
She emphasised that it is key for green economy policies in SA to include young people.
"Transition to a green economy must be inclusive to ensure those marginalised are not further left behind," she said.
"Real change and transformation will only be achieved by reframing policies on sustainability to try and shift investment and implement transformative change."
She acknowledged that transitioning to a low carbon economy is a big challenge and there remains an undeniable risk of doing irreversable damage to aspects on which life on earth depends.
During the opening of the conference, Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organisation (IOL), said the organisation estimates that by 2030 about 2% of total hours of work in the world could be lost due to climate change. He warned that about 72 million jobs in the world could be at stake.
"Doing nothing about climate change will mean loss of jobs. There aren't jobs on a dead planet," Ryder concluded.