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Cablegate: South African Environment, Science, and Technology Monthly

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RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE

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TAGS: SENV SOCI ETRD SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, AND TECHNOLOGY MONTHLY
BRIEFINGS, NOVEMBER, 2009

PRETORIA 00002569 001.2 OF 004


1. (U) Summary: This is the South African Environment, Science and
Technology Monthly Briefings Newsletter, November 2009, Volume 4,
Number 11, prepared by the U.S. Embassy Pretoria, South Africa.

Topics of the newsletter:

-- SA Accelerates Preparations for Copenhagen

-- 2010 World Cup Could Leave Behind Big Carbon Footprint

-- SKA Hosting Chances Boosted for South Africa

-- Companies in South Africa Too Slow to Cash in on CDM

-- Rescue Robot that Goes Anywhere

-- Tsitsikama Wind Project to Kick-Start Green Energy Source


-- SA Passes Law to Regulate the Use of Coastal Resources

-- State to Re-Introduce Environmental Courts

-- MONTHLY FACTOID

------------------------------------------
SA Accelerates Preparations for Copenhagen
------------------------------------------

2. (U) In preparation for the climate change negotiations in
Copenhagen, South Africa is embarking on several programs aimed at
making sure that the country contributes positively to the debate on
global warming. Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor said,
"Ad hoc working groups on the Kyoto Protocol and on the Long-term
Cooperation Action have prepared South Africa's position papers for
the negotiations at Copenhagen in December 2009 and the post 2012
negotiations". She said various stakeholders were being consulted
on the position. Speaking at a media briefing by the Economic
Sectors and Employment cluster Program of Action, Pandor noted that
work was underway on the so-called green jobs to identify new
employment and industrial opportunities. A task team has been
established to develop the green jobs proposals and coordinate
various government initiatives. Proposals were being developed for
the domestic manufacture of solar water heating geysers.
Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa Sonjica has also emphasized
South Africa's willingness to contribute to global action to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions as the country prepares for the Copenhagen
summit. (BuaNews, November 10, 2009)

---------------------------------
2010 World Cup Could Leave Behind
Big Carbon Footprint
---------------------------------

3. (U) A study commissioned by the Department of Water and
Environmental Affairs (DWEA) concluded that the 2010 World Cup will
leave a carbon footprint nearly nine times that of Germany in 2006,
before even calculating the footprint for international flights to
South Africa. The study was conducted by Swedish consultants and
the Norwegian Embassy, financed by the Norwegian government.
According to the study, the event is expected to send 896,661 tons
of global-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, with
international travel contributing another 1,856,589 tons, costing
between $5.4 million and $9 million for carbon offset projects to
counter the effect of the carbon output. The huge carbon output is
largely attributed to the size of South Africa compared to Germany
and therefore the distances players, officials and fans will have to
travel between matches.

4. (U) South Africa's relatively unsophisticated transport
infrastructure is also blamed. The lack of fast trains means most
people will fly between cities, notching up large amounts of CO2.
Most people would travel by carbon-heavy car or bus within cities,
rather than light trains as in Germany. If international transport
Qrather than light trains as in Germany. If international transport
is taken into account, the footprint will be 2,753,250 tons. The
study stated that proposed greening measures "would only affect the
smaller components of the carbon footprint", because they deal only
with emissions from stadium and precinct energy use, and intra-city
transport, only about 9 percent of the domestic carbon footprint.
(The Star, November 26, 2009)

--------------------------------------------
SKA Hosting Chances Boosted for South Africa
--------------------------------------------


PRETORIA 00002569 002.2 OF 004


5. (U) South Africa's chances of winning the bid to have the world's
most powerful radio telescope built in the Northern Cape could be
bolstered if it seals a partnership agreement with an oil-rich Arab
country. Qatar has expressed interest in throwing its weight
behind South Africa's bid to become the host country for the square
kilometer array (SKA) telescope, a giant telescope that will
comprise about 3000 antennas. The telescope, about 50 to 100 times
more sensitive than any other radio telescope on earth, will be able
to probe the edges of the universe, helping scientists to understand
fundamental questions about astronomy, physics and cosmology.
Scientists will use the SKA to go back in time to explore the
origins of the first galaxies, stars and planets. South Africa and
Australia are the only two bidders left in the running to host the
telescope.

6. (U) The announcement of the winning bidder will be made in 2012.
The Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, who attended a
world innovation summit for education in Qatar's capital, Doha in
November, confirmed the country's interest in the project. She said
Qatar was "very keen" to become an associate country. The
discussions have now reached a fairly firm proposal stage. Pandor
said South Africa had been looking for international partners,
"because the greater expanse of satellite access and frequency you
have, the better in terms of your bid". South Africa also has eight
other African countries on board.

----------------------------------
Companies in South Africa Too Slow
to Cash in on CDM
----------------------------------

7. (U) Companies around the world are hunting for investments in
developing countries to improve their carbon profiles, but South
Africa has been slow to cash in. Fewer than 20 South African
projects are registered under the international Clean Development
Mechanism (CDM) as potential providers of certified carbon offset
credits for the mainly European based companies that are obliged by
their governments to meet carbon emission reduction targets.
According to Peet Du Plooy of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),
only three of those companies have issued actual certificates. Du
Plooy and players in the carbon market said South Africa was lagging
behind India and China because of the expense and complexity of
getting projects certified as "green", and because of lack of
incentives for renewable energy. He said revenue from selling
carbon credits under the CDM would not by itself guarantee a
project's financial viability. The CDM was set up under the Kyoto
Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, aimed at fighting the threat
of global climate change. For South African companies, achieving
carbon neutrality is still voluntary, but this could change after
the Copenhagen climate change conference. (Sunday Times, November
21, 2009)


-------------------------------
Rescue Robot that Goes Anywhere
-------------------------------

8. (U) A search robot capable of going into concealed areas that
firefighters and rescue teams cannot enter, was unveiled in Durban
in mid November. "We are very happy with what we have achieved so
far and we want to improve it so that it can give far better
results", KwaZulu-Natal University mechanical engineering lecturer
Riaan Stopforth told reporters about the prototype. "We decided to
QRiaan Stopforth told reporters about the prototype. "We decided to
design this robot because of rescuers' lives lost during rescue
operations". The robot, described by the eThekwini (Durban)
Municipality's fire department as "impressive", weighs 56kg and will
be able to transmit video information before firefighters start
their rescue operations. Its development began three years ago. It
can travel over very rough ground using wheels that move inside
metal belts, like those on a tank, and can also be used during
search and rescue operations in mines. Stopforth said it would help
save time and lives, as many hours were lost when rescuers could not
enter a building due to unsafe conditions. "More than 300
firefighters died at the World Trade Center during the September 11
attacks in 2001. Rescuers often enter areas that have unstable
structures not knowing that there are no people to rescue".
Sixty-five of the more than 300 firefighters at the World Trade
Center died because they searched in confined spaces which flooded.
Stopforth said the research team was trying to make sure the robot
was able to operate near fires. Stopforth also added that "Problems
identified at the World Trade Center were that the robots' traction
systems malfunctioned, and some were either large or not easily
maneuverable". (The Star, November 17, 2009)

----------------------------------------

PRETORIA 00002569 003.2 OF 004


Tsitsikama Wind Project to Kick-Start
Green Energy Source
-----------------------------------------

9. (U) The R1 billion ($1.33 billion) Tsitsikama wind farm project
was launched at the end of November, which has moved South Africa
another step closer to increasing its production of cleaner and
renewable energy. By 2013 the wind farm will produce 40 megawatts
of electricity, which will be sold to Eskom. It is the first
community-owned project of its kind in the country. The Tsitsikama
community in the Eastern Cape owns the 7,000ha of land to be used as
the site of the wind farm, which has the potential to produce
10,000MW of energy. The community will hold at least a 10 percent
share in the project. Other key shareholders are Exxaro Resources,
Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, the Danish Export Credit
Fund, the Danish Industrialization Fund for Developing Countries,
Dong Energy a Danish energy company, European Energy and Eastern
Cape Community Wind Energy. The latter is a non-governmental
organization that was formed to involve the community and educate
them about renewable energy and its benefits. About 46 percent of
the project will be owned by black economic empowerment partners. An
environmental impact assessment is under way and the feasibility
studies have also begun.

10. (U) Sufficient wind for electricity generation must run at 5m
per second. Feasibility studies show that the wind is averaging
6.5m per second at the site. Chief Director at Department of Energy
David Mahuma said the government was reviewing its renewable energy
strategy beyond 2013. He added that, "In South Africa, we are one
of the world's 20 leading polluters and projects like these show our
seriousness as a country to move towards cleaner energy". There
will be 20 turbines installed in Tsitsikama. Grid connection
estimations are that it would not cost less than R100 million
($13.33 million). Tsitsikama is a poverty-stricken area which does
not have electricity, and the community's closest school is at least
25km away. Thobile Makamba, the chairperson of the Tsitsikama
Community Trust, said the income generated by the wind farm would be
used to deliver infrastructure that was not available in the area,
such as building schools and health facilities. (Business Report,
December 1, 2009)


------------------------------------
SA Passes Law to Regulate the Use of
Coastal Resources
------------------------------------

11. (U) The Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) Act, dedicated to
managing coastlines in an integrated manner and ensuring the
sustainable use of the coast's natural resources, came into effect
on December 1, 2009. The ICM Act, the first legal instrument of its
kind in South Africa, offers a new approach to managing the
activities of people in the coastal zone. It seeks to preserve,
protect, extend and enhance the status of coastal public property as
being held in trust by government on behalf of all South Africans,
including future generations; secure equitable access to the
opportunities and benefits of coastal public property; and give
effect to South Africa's obligations in terms of international law
regarding coastal management and the marine environment.
Previously, the value of South Africa's coastline and its ecosystems
was not sufficiently acknowledged in decision-making in South
Qwas not sufficiently acknowledged in decision-making in South
Africa. The direct benefits obtained from coastal "goods and
services" was estimated in 1998 to be about R168 billion annually,
which was equivalent to about 35 percent of the annual Gross
Domestic Product (GDP). According to the Department of
Environmental Affairs, much of the wealth locked up in the coast
continues to be wasted due to environmentally insensitive
development and poor decision-making. The Act is based on a national
vision for the coast, which includes the socially justified sharing
of benefits derived from a resource-rich coastal area, without
compromising the ability of future generations to access those
benefits. (BuaNews 30, 2009)
------------------------------------------
State to Re-Introduce Environmental Courts
------------------------------------------

12. (U) The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs (DWEA)
Buyelwa Sonjica announced that the re-established environmental
courts, which aim to improve the prosecution of environmental
crimes, are expected to be up and running in the next six months.
She said the establishment of dedicated courts, with dedicated
prosecutors will have a profound impact on the fight against
environmental crimes. Sonjica said that a meeting between the
Minister of Justice Jeff Radebe and her in September 2009 resulted
in the decision to move forward with the process in order to address

PRETORIA 00002569 004.2 OF 004


the challenges experienced in enforcing the environmental laws. The
Minister emphasized they would be up and running in six months or
earlier. However, she cautioned that it might be a challenge to
find skilled people to run them. Sonjica explained that DWEA would
not be building new court buildings but would look at utilizing
existing ones for environmental crimes. "We are going to use the
existing ones in a creative way to locate time dedicated for
environmental crimes," she said.
13. (U) DWEA's recently released National Environmental Compliance
and Enforcement Report, revealed that the total number of cases in
which the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) declined to prosecute
increased from 16 in 2007/08 to 100 in 2008/09 and the number of
convictions decreased from 748 in 2007/08 to 258 in 2008/09. The
total number of admission of guilt fines issued nearly doubled, from
R744,706 in 2007/08 to R 1,446,709 in 2008/09 with the number of
acquittals also decreasing from 441 in 2007/08 to 18 in 2008/09.
Sonjica attributed the decline in prosecution to the notion that
environmental crimes were not the core function of the NPA hence the
need for dedicated courts. The Minister also highlighted the need
for a dedicated investigation report on the profiling of
environmental crimes. DWEA's Compliance and Enforcement Support
Director Mark Jardine said they would also focus on the causes for
the fluctuations in the number of reported convictions, acquittals
and decisions not to prosecute and also why some institutions were
recording over 200 convictions per year and others nothing.
(BuaNews, November 26, 2009)


---------------
Monthly Factoid
---------------

14. (U) South Africa houses one of the three largest telescopes in
the world, the SALT, at Sutherland in the Karoo.
www.southafricagoodnews.co.za

Gips

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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