News / Africa

    South Africa Under Fire For 'Dirty Energy'

    People walk with a coffin as they protest against the usage of coal during a climate change conference at the city of Durban, South Africa, December 1, 2011.
    People walk with a coffin as they protest against the usage of coal during a climate change conference at the city of Durban, South Africa, December 1, 2011.

    As host of the current United Nations Climate Conference, South Africa is under the spotlight and under fire for what many are calling a "dirty energy" policy. More than 90 percent of South African electricity is produced from coal - believed to be the worst contributor to greenhouse gases and climate change. Activists are calling for the government to develop alternative and clean supplies of energy.

    South Africa is among the top five coal producing and exporting countries in the world.  And, with voracious energy needs, South Africa relies almost exclusively on coal to power its homes, businesses and economy.

    And, the government here has plans to grow its coal dependency in the short -term by opening another two new coal-powered energy stations.

    This has environmentalists worried that there is no view to evolving a clean energy policy.   And, as host of the U.N. Climate Conference in the Indian Ocean city, Durban, South Africa is attracting scrutiny like never before.

    There have protests in Durban against all kinds of so called anti-green policies. South Africa is being lumped in with some of the world’s largest carbon polluters, like the United States, Russia and China.

    Professor Patrick Bond, a leading academic in Durban and a clean energy activist, says he had hoped that democratic South Africa would reverse its dependence on what he calls dirty energy, but that this has not happened.

    “Like the apartheid system, the use of coal, like black labor, was terribly destructive by the big companies that set up apartheid to serve their profitability interests," said Bond. "So, we have never taken into consideration the environmental costs. It’s a long legacy that we thought post-apartheid could change.”

    He says South Africa has failed to underwrite job-creating renewable energy systems since the first democratic elections in 1994.

    “Of course we have got such excellent solar capacity especially on the western side and there is already a small solar chimney being constructed, and of course solar hot waters heaters should be put onto every house,” added Bond.

    South Africa government officials have been on the defensive in Durban, saying keeping coal as the primary source of the power is necessary, in the short term,  to meet development needs here in the country with 25 percent unemployment.

    Minister of Economic Development Ebrahim Patel told conference participants in Durban his country shares the challenge to evolve in an energy thirsty planet.

    “We recognize, as a country, we followed a path of coal-based industrialization in the 20th century," said Patel. "For us the challenge is how to change from that trajectory and create more jobs in the process.”

    Environment Minister Edna Molewa says the government does have a plan in place to increase use of renewable energy, but that it will take time.

    “The objective is to ensure that we move into the renewables, not abandoning coal completely," said Molewa. "Because we need space to develop those renewables until we have adequate infrastructure that is inexpensive for our people within the area of renewables. At the same time, acknowledging that there are industries like mining that still need some level of usage of coal."

    She says the two new coal-powered electricity stations that have come under fire will be far more efficient than the majority in operation, many of which were built more than 50 years ago.

    The government here owns the power company ESKOM, one of the world’s top 10 electricity generators, and which produces about 95 percent of South Africa’s electrical power.  At its recent shareholders’ meeting, ESKOM management said the authority was moving as fast as it could to diversify South Africa’s energy mix to be less dependent on coal.

    You May Like

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora