While opinions range about who or what is responsible, climate change programme manager Dr Sue Taylor says that the energy sector – particularly coal-fired power stations – alone accounts for 39% of global greenhouse-gas emissions.
According to Taylor, all energy conservation scenarios assume the expanded use of electricity.
The most important fuel for generating electricity is coal, which provides 39% of all electricity generated.
Uranium used in nuclear power stations today provides 16% of the growing total.
“The challenge we’re now posing to industry and the energy sector is this: How will it reduce its impact on the environment and on the atmosphere? There are strategies that we can employ to lower emissions, and to increase energy efficiency, thus reducing the need for additional power stations in the long term,” says Taylor.
Local power supplier Eskom has launched a renewable energy research fund with WWF to promote innovation for renewable energy.
Eskom plans to award R9-million to the project over the next three years to innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs.
The organisation says that to assess submissions for the renewable energy funding, an advisory committee of key players has been established and will include representatives from government – the Departments of Minerals and Energy (DME), the Department of Environ-mental Affairs and Tourism (Deat), and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) – academia, business associations, as well as WWF itself.
In a presentation by WWF South Africa CEO Tony Frost, entitled ‘The World We Live In’, shown in June this year, the concept of ‘wedges’ was introduced.
A ‘wedge’ is a graphic depiction of a strategy that can reduce the trend of growing carbon emissions in 50 years from zero to 1 000 t/y of carbon.
Wedges could take the form of various energy-saving measures and energy-efficiency measures, which include renewable-energy uptake.
Frost believes that, cumulatively, the the wedge approach could redirect the flow of 25 Gt of carbon in its first 50 years of implementation, enough to substantially reduce climate change.
This could also mean a $2,5-trillion saving at $100/t of carbon.
According to WWF’s statistics, by 2054, the international rate of carbon emissions will have reached 14 000-t/y.
Globally, WWF states that, if the true value of coal were represented in price, as well as the ecological cost, companies would look to fewer or lower carbon-intensive energy sources. In terms of the Kyoto Pro-tocol, many other solutions are available, including government’s encouraging the building of cleaner power plants by setting robust carbon caps in emissions trading systems.
South Africa is above carrying capacity
In WWF’s 2004 ‘Living Planet Report’, planet earth reached its capacity to meet human demand in the mid 1980s.
A new updated version of the report is available as of the end of October this year.
The global ecological footprint – which measures how much humans take out of the soil, as well as how much space is required for food, pulp and fibre, and how much space is needed for waste disposal – is currently 20% over sustain- able capacity.
However, as the global population increases and, as lifestyles become more consumptive, the impact is such that the environment is quickly losing capacity to sustain human demand to the point where it is almost heavily below sustainability.
“We are entering into a situation of ‘ecological debt’ where we are eating into our ecological capital. Ecological bankruptcy may result at some stage. “South Africa is currently 80% over its carrying capacity. In other words, we need another 80% of land and space to generate what we need on a sustainable basis,” says Taylor.
She says that it is possible to be ‘overdrawn’ ecologically, but this means that the debt will have to be collected at some point, which could lead to impoverished land space.
South Africa’s ecological capacity is 1,7 global hectares/person, while the demand is 2,2 global hectares/person.