IRP RE

Three new IRP procurement rounds to come


 
South Africa  
 
 
Energy: Plans to launch three new RE procurement rounds

SA plans to launch three procurement rounds for 6 800MW of renewable energy over the next year, as well as a combined 5 000MW of new coal, gas and storage, a presentation by the ANC showed. According to a Moneyweb report, President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to fix Eskom and add generation capacity, but progress has been slow. The presentation, made at a three-day meeting of party officials and allies that ended on Sunday, showed the the plan to launch the first renewables round in January or February for 2 600MW of wind and solar, with another 2 600MW round in August and a third for 1 600MW in January or February 2022. A procurement round for roughly 500MW of energy storage would start around September, followed by rounds for 1 500MW of coal and 3 000MW of gas around December. The capacity envisaged by the ANC is in line with the country’s Integrated Resource Plan, a government document that lays out the power mix until 2030.

Full Moneyweb report

Energy: eThekwini sets course to separate from Eskom

The eThekwini metro has set a 30-year plan to divorce itself from using Eskom as a primary energy provider, largely over fears that the utility’s rising costs and load shedding will drive small and large clients off-grid, taking a chunk of the city’s revenue. According to a Daily Maverick report, the draft eThekwini Energy Policy, which maps out the city’s strategy to dump Eskom, is out for public comment until 29 January. It has been available for public consumption since 15 December 2020. It sets out eThekwini’s vision to develop renewable energy for its 740 000 energy clients, to meet future demand and to ‘mitigate the impacts of load shedding and thereby drastically reduce reliance on Eskom’s coal-fired electricity generation’. By 2030 the metro wants 40% of all energy to come from sources other than Eskom, and by 2050 it aims to be 100% reliant on clean energy sources. The draft policy, which consists of the eThekwini Integrated Resource Plan and the Energy Strategic Map, predicts that if clients continue to move off-grid, it will lead to retrenchments in the municipality and decreased revenue, and make it difficult for the city to cross-subsidise other critical services such as the provision of free basic electricity, health and education. At a virtual briefing by the city last week to discuss the draft policy, its manager for renewables and gas, Sbu Ntshalintshali, said plans included eThekwini generating its own electricity. ‘We remain hopeful that in 15 months … we will be able to procure energy from IPPs. eThekwini Municipality has, since 2018, received a number of proposals, both locally and internationally, with an investment value of R300bn,’ said Ntshalintshali. eThekwini’s future energy modelling needs were undertaken by international consulting firm UK Arup which was contracted by the C40 Technical Assistance Programme to provide the energy system and scenario modelling for the city’s energy plan.

Full Daily Maverick report

Finance: eThekwini coffers drained by water losses

Water losses are costing the eThekwini Municipality a fortune and have resulted in a drastic decrease in the city’s revenue. According to a report in The Mercury, the three big trade services – water, electricity and sanitation – have cost the city close to R1bn in losses. A budget statement for the month ending 31 December 2020 showed its key trade services recorded a downward trend in generating revenue. The city blamed this on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that some businesses were not fully operational yet. But DA councillor Nicole Graham said the water losses were abnormal, above the acceptable norm and could not be justified. ‘The losses are due to ageing infrastructure and leaks. The losses in water, electricity and sanitation have cost the municipality close to a billion rand,’ she said. In the report, in which the city detailed its losses, it said water revenue had decreased by R720.3m compared with the year-to-date budget. It attributed this mainly to a decrease in revenue generated from water service charges. The report also said for water distribution losses, the municipality had reported a ratio of 51.7%. This percentage was not in line with the expected norm of between 15 and 30%, the city said. However, this was being investigated as there were some high meter readings distorting this ratio. Ednick Msweli, eThekwini’s head of Water and Sanitation, said one of the challenges with water was that it was supplied to areas where people did not pay or were not metered.

Full report in The Mercury (subscription needed)

 

The council has refused to make details available about how residents in several southern and western suburbs went without running water for weeks this month because of broken pump motors at its Northdene station. A Daily Maverick report notes that while the city maintained earlier this month that the pump station had been repaired, some residents believe the area is receiving water because the city managed to strike a deal with global packaging and paper group Mondi, and is using its machinery. The city failed to respond to 14 detailed questions submitted by DM, including requests for the maintenance history of the machinery in question, the estimated number of residents affected, who received the contract to repair the pumps, and questions about its water tanker distribution strategy in times of crisis. According to residents, the city first communicated about the problem two days into the outage, and to date, has not answered their specific questions either. eThekwini has been rolling out the Western and Northern Aqueducts project to provide water to areas that were previously under-serviced, but this has been beset with problems, primarily due to so-called business forums halting contractors.

Full Daily Maverick report

Corporate: Energy Efficiency Tax Incentive working well – Sanedi

Businesses are increasingly prioritising energy efficiency as they seek to navigate a more challenging environment, with energy bills continuing to rise and carbon tax now a reality. An Engineering News report notes that the South African National Energy Development Institute (Sanedi) reports that it has seen an increase in the number of Section 12L Energy Efficiency Tax Incentive applications since March last year. The 12L tax incentive, according to Income Tax Act, 1962 (Act No. 58 of 1962), provides an allowance for businesses to implement energy efficiency savings. The savings allow for tax deduction of 95 c/kWh saved on energy consumption. Sanedi plays the role of implementing and overseeing the application process of the incentive claimant to the issuing of the 12L Tax Incentive certificate at the application approval. From March to May 2020, the number of applications more than doubled, the organisation indicates. Sanedi’s Barry Bredenkamp said part of the reason for the update since March was that in addition to financial concerns, people finally had time to consider their energy bill and carbon tax payable during lockdown level five. ‘I would argue that the national shutdown in March last year gave people the time to assess their operations, and finally act on their intentions. Now that the ball is rolling, we hope to see the trend continue with more applications, and more energy saved,’ Bredenkamp said. ‘Companies are finally understanding that there is real money involved here, not to mention the environmental aspects,’ emphasised Bredenkamp. He added that Sanedi will soon release a detailed analysis and report on the 12L Energy Efficiency Tax Incentive.

Full Engineering News report

Waste: uMsunduzi Metro looks for new landfill site

The uMsunduzi Municipality is working around the clock to identify an ideal location to build a new landfill site to replace the current dump site, which has reached its maximum lifespan. According to a report in The Mercury, this was revealed by the municipality during the Co-operative Governance & Traditional Affairs Portfolio Committee meeting last week, when the municipality tabled its reports on various service delivery issues. Addressing the committee, Msunduzi Municipal Manager Madoda Khathide said the New England Road dump site had experienced fires in the past two years, and that the municipality had come under pressure to close it from residents and ratepayers’ organisations. ‘There is a proposed regional landfill site by the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, that they believe is convenient for us to utilise,’ said Khathide. The uMgungundlovu District spokesperson, Brian Zuma, said two sites had been identified in uMshwathi and Mkhambathini, for which land evaluation had been done a few years ago. At the time, the cost analysis was estimated at R285m.

Full report in The Mercury (subscription needed)

 

Still with landfill matters, this time in Gauteng, MMC for Environmental Affairs Dana Wannenburg and executive mayor Randall Williams will be visiting the dump site in Ga-Rankuwa amid growing calls for the facility to be closed. According to a Pretoria News report, residents living close to the landfill site have complained of noxious odours and a fly and vermin infestation for years. Wannenburg acknowledged that waste volumes to the site had increased substantially since the closure of the Onderstepoort landfill last year, but they were operating the landfill in terms of the landfill permit and covering the waste daily. He said there would be relief as a total of R150m has been earmarked to purchase extra landfill space, with an additional R13m for development. Meanwhile, the Gauteng Department of Agriculture & Rural Development has also had the metro in its crosshairs for non-compliance, and is now pursuing a criminal investigation and has handed over the file to the NPA. An independent landfill expert confirmed the highly non-compliant nature of the Ga-Rankuwa landfill. ‘The City is being completely disingenuous when they claim that the landfill is compliant. That claim can only be made based on the external audits that are supposed to happen annually, and the results of the testing of the underground water from the boreholes upstream and downstream of the landfill.’

Full Pretoria News report

Waste: Stench over Potsdam plant

Residents of Table View and Milnerton are up in arms about the stench of faeces coming from Cape Town's Potsdam wastewater treatment plant as a tender dispute to remove the offending sludge is resolved. According to a News24 report the City of Cape Town says the smell is due to a build-up of sludge at the treatment plant, while an appeal relating to a tender for the removal of the sludge is settled. According to the City, the appeals process has been concluded. ‘The contracts are currently being vetted by the City's Legal Services,’ said the City of Cape Town in response to questions. The appeal dealt with ranking and calculations. Because Section 62 of the Municipal Systems Act confers a right to any bidder to challenge and appeal the decision of a municipality, the contract could not be implemented during the appeal period.

The overwhelming smell should start fading soon, the City said last week. A second News24 report notes that the smell will continue for a few days while the pile of sludge that has built up is collected. Once the work commences, residents might experience some foul smells for a few days as the sludge is removed, the City said. The sludge, which is a by-product of the wastewater treatment process, needed to be stockpiled while the tender for its removal and disposal was appealed, hence the stench. ‘The City sincerely regrets the discomfort caused to residents as a result of the appeals against the awarding of the contract,’ Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato said. The City's Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste Alderman Xanthea Limberg said sludge cake is stockpiled in a clay-lined pond to avoid the contamination of groundwater, and cannot overflow into the environment or reach the Diep River.

First News24 report

Second News24 report

Pollution: Cape Town modifes Diep River catchment directive

By-law contraventions in the Diep River catchment are a significant driver of pollution and remain a major concern, the City of Cape Town said, as it welcomed Local Government MEC Anton Bredell’s decision to modify a directive for the improvement of the area. According to a Cape Times report, Bredell last week made the decision following an appeal lodged by the City, relating to the pollution and degradation of the Diep River catchment, including the Milnerton Lagoon. He said the existing directive included requesting the City to submit revised incident protocols and contingency plans for the Koeberg and Sanddrift pump stations. ‘In addition, some of the dates and timelines have been addressed. The directive remains in effect and instructs the City to continue to implement its action plan to address the pollution and degradation concerns,’ Bredell said. Over 50 interventions from the City’s Action Plan are leading to improvement in pollution levels in the Diep River Catchment, the City said, which is one of six critical catchments due to multiple sources of urban and agricultural pollution. The City said major infrastructure upgrades were at various stages in the Diep River catchment, and the directive was now aligned to time frames outlined in the City’s Action Plan. Further measures which have already been completed or are not relevant to pollution abatement in the catchment have been removed from the final directive.

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

Conservation: Wessa slams re-opening of Lake St Lucia mouth

Plans to ensure the long-term future of SA’s largest estuarine lake have been cast into turmoil after a controversial decision to break open a sand barrier separating Lake St Lucia and the ocean. A TimesLIVE report notes that the country’s oldest environmental watchdog group has asked the national Environment Ministry to explain why the mouth of the World Heritage Site lake was ripped open with heavy earth-moving equipment this month – and also demanded assurances that no further ‘illegal’ tampering with the lake’s natural processes would be allowed. The Wildlife and Environment Society (Wessa), a civil society watchdog formed in 1926, said it was ‘most disturbed’ by the recent artificial breaching of the country’s largest estuarine lake, also charging that this was contrary to the park’s management policies and in defiance of legal rulings by the high court and Supreme Court of Appeal. As reported previously in Legalbrief Environmental, seven estuarine and hydrology experts have also written to Environment Minister Barbara Creecy to voice alarm over the park management’s apparent decision to ‘deviate from scientific, evidence-based management decisions’. Wessa endorsed this letter. A third environmental group, the Isimangaliso Action Group, has raised similar concerns – in stark contrast to sentiments from local sugar farmers, many saltwater fishers and some tourism operations in St Lucia village, who have praised iSimangaliso for breaking the mouth open to allow saltwater to re-enter the lake (albeit artificially).

So far, only one scientist has publicly defended the task team’s decision to breach the mouth artificially. Prof Alan Whitfield of the SA Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity said he recommended the breach to allow the nursery function of Lake St Lucia for marine fish and invertebrates to be restored. The other seven expert scientists have disagreed strongly, however, arguing that natural processes should be allowed to restore the lake’s long-term health, the TimesLIVE report notes. They have emphasised that the lake’s natural ecology is dynamic – alternating between freshwater and salty conditions depending on whether the mouth is open or closed according to natural cycles. It is understood that the seven scientists were invited to meet iSimangaliso officials last week to discuss the controversy, but they have requested further detailed documentation from park managers before engaging. Creecy issued a statement on 18 January, confirming she had asked iSimangaliso for a full report on the matter.

Full TimesLIVE report

Mining: Monono village caught up in vanadium struggle

Tensions are high between the villagers in Mononono in North West Province and mining company Ikwezi Vanadium after at least seven people were injured, some seriously, in protests since December 2020. A GroundUp report notes that on 8 January, members of a private security company, the National Strike Intervention Unit (NSIU) shot rubber bullets at Mononono residents who were protesting against Ikwezi Vanadium’s activities on Haakdoornfontein farm. Community members fear that further clashes may result in more injuries, should the two sides fail to reach a consensus about mining activities on Haakdoornfontein farm. According to Sam Ditsele, a member of the Mononono Community Structure, the community wants Ikwezi to stop its activities until it has clearly communicated its mining plans, and how the community will benefit from or be compensated for Ikwezi’s mining on Haarkdoornfontein farm. The community has also requested an environmental impact assessment because the farm is close to a gravesite and houses. The farm is on government-owned land in Mononono, near the Limpopo border. Ditsele said Ikwezi had begun bulk sampling before resolving the matters that the community had raised. This had led to frequent protests by community members at Haakdoornfontein farm. The two sides have been to and fro in court since July 2019, when Ikwezi won an interdict in the North West High Court interdicting Ditsele and several other community members from interfering with the bulk sampling process. SAPS Brigadier Mokgwabone confirmed that police had been called in. ‘According to an interim interdict in a 15 December court order from the North West High Court, Ikwezi representatives were supposed to be arrested for violating the October 2019 court order,' Ditsele said.

Full GroundUp report

Conservation: SANParks celebrates decrease in rhino poaching, but …

A new report from SANParks has shown that there was a significant decrease in rhino poaching in 2020 due to nationwide Covid-19 lockdowns. The report revealed that last year, 394 rhino were poached for their horns in SA. This is 33% fewer than the 594 killed in 2019. According to SANParks during the various lockdown alert levels last year, the movement of poachers and rhino horn smugglers had been curtailed. ‘Whilst this success should be celebrated as a moderate win, we cannot become complacent as the escalating demand in consumer countries ensures a lucrative black market trade and thus relentless pressure on all resources to combat this organised crime,’ it said. A report on the News24 site notes that the Kruger National Park experienced 1 573 poacher activities, a decrease of 21.9% in comparison to the number in 2019 which was 2 014. However, the DA has called on SANParks to present a comprehensive briefing to Parliament on the state of SA’s dwindling rhino population. DA spokesperson Dave Bryant said: ‘SANParks have repeatedly stated that rhino poaching is declining but this is clearly not the case and in complete contradiction with what we have been hearing from people on the ground.'

Full News24 report

 

And shocking official statistics have emerged which show that the world’s single-largest population of rhinos — those living in the Kruger National Park — has been slashed by between 66% and 70% over the past decade. According to a Daily Maverick report, over the past two years, Minister of Environment, Forestry & Fisheries Barbara Creecy and her department officials have sought to convey upbeat messages about recent significant declines in the rate of rhino poaching in Kruger and other rhino sanctuaries nationwide. However, the latest population statistics strongly suggest that this reported reduction in poaching rates largely reflects that there are now vastly fewer rhinos to poach. In recent statements, Creecy has suggested that the fight against rhino poaching has turned a corner. Last July, for example, she announced that rhino poaching had decreased by almost 53% in the first six months of 2020, with 166 animals killed for their horns nationwide in that period. But while overall poaching rates have indeed declined markedly from the peak reached in 2013-2016 (when more than 1 000 were killed each year), rhino experts have cautioned that the lower poaching rates over the past few years are still a matter of significant concern.

Full Daily Maverick report

Conservation: EWT lends drones to monitor Vaal hippo gone rogue

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is lending support to the Gauteng Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (GDARD) with the continuous monitoring of a hippopotamus seen moving in and around residential areas in northern Johannesburg, including Fourways. According to a Cape Times report, the animal was first spotted last month, the NGO said. The organisation is in direct contact with Northern Farm MTB, where the hippo was last seen, and is providing support for the monitoring effort on the ground via aerial monitoring using its Remote Pilot Aircraft Systems. The hippo is suspected of having moved up the river system from the Hartbeespoort Dam area and, when water levels are high enough, it is not uncommon for hippos to cover great distances in their pursuit of food. ‘This particular hippo was sighted in the Chartwell area several times in December, and seen after that moving back towards the Lanseria and Hartbeespoort area. The hippo was also spotted roaming the Fourways area. ‘There is, therefore, every expectation that the hippo will move back in its own time, and in the meantime, the EWT is providing aerial monitoring support to the conservation authorities to ensure the safety of the hippo and that of all the communities along its journey,’ EWT said.

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

 

Mark McClue, of Action for Responsible Management of Our Rivers (Armour), and Werner Bester, of Specialised Security Services, have built a tight-knit team to monitor the hippo they’ve dubbed ‘Chippo’. A Mail & Guardian Online report quotes McClue, who has kayaked the Jukskei for years, who said he was amazed by Chippo’s ability to negotiate obstacles. ‘From here to Chartwell, where it was seen on 29 December, it’s about 7km or 8km of river. Where we found it in Chartwell (on the resident’s property) was above two big weirs of 5.7m,’ he said. Bester is leading a task team set up by specialist investigator Mike Bolhuis to protect Hartbeespoort Dam’s celebrity resident, Harpo the hippo. It’s not clear if Harpo and Chippo are the same hippo, says Bester. ‘My job is to get knowledge of where the hippo is and to get a network going. Nozipho Hlabangana, the spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, said it was working with its North West counterparts, as the hippo most likely originated there, and with the EWT. The hippo is not the problem, said Bester. ‘Since development has invaded the hippo’s natural habitat, we have to take responsibility for not just the inhabitants’ safety, but all the animals within this habitat.’

Full report on the Mail & Guardian Online site

Marine: Sand dumping risks biodiversity – study

A study recently released into sand dumping on the ecosystem has received the backing of the Save Vetch’s Reef Association. According to a report on the IoL site, the study was commissioned by the eThekwini Municipality in Durban, after it came under pressure from the Reef Association. The research which culminated in the study, was conducted by the Oceanographic Research Institute. ‘This same poorly managed sand pumping operation has also left the Moyo’s Pier high and dry on many occasions, compromising the aquarium’s water intake points, and prompting the municipality to propose an insane and costly extension of the pier,’ the Save Vetch’s Reef Association said. The association urgently wants the recommendations from the ORI report implemented and for an independent third party to monitor the sand pumping activities in the future. The report recommended a more consistent pumping regime which would allow for less smothering of organisms spatially.

Full report on the IoL site

Eco-Tourism: Study analyses impact of whale-watching tours

Humpback whales and dolphins are sensitive to the approaches of whale-watching boats, but most operators in Plettenberg Bay have not been adhering fully to regulations that protect these social marine mammals, a new study shows. A Daily Dispatch report says project team member Minke Witteveen, from Nelson Mandela University’s Institute for Coastal and Marine Research, said: ‘Out of the 123 whale and dolphin encounters we observed in Plettenberg Bay from 2018 to 2020, only 11 were 100% compliant with all the regulations governing animal encounters.’ More than 30 permits (not all active) have been granted for boat-based whale watching in marine hotspots — including False Bay, Hermanus, Gansbaai, Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Port Elizabeth and St Lucia — and the industry is expanding. In Plettenberg Bay, it contributes R371.2m per year and creates 92 jobs, said the researchers who hoped to inform sustainable marine tourism. Nelson Mandela University marine scientist and project leader Dr Gwenith Penry said: ‘People come from all over the world to experience SA’s bottlenose, common and humpback dolphins, and the southern right, humpback and Bryde’s whales in Plettenberg Bay. If there are too many operators in one area, or if they do not comply with the encounter guidelines, the animals get stressed and may even leave the bay.’ ‘We therefore set out to determine what type of approach and encounter disturbs the animals the least, and have these findings implemented as part of permit restrictions,’ she explained.

Full Daily Dispatch report (subscription needed)

 

The sounds of a ‘chatty’ killer whale have been recorded in SA for the first time, off Fish Hoek in False Bay last week. The sounds were captured by researchers Tess Gridley and Simon Elwen from Sea Search, a non-profit based in Muizenberg that focuses on research and conservation of marine mammals along the coasts of SA and Namibia. According to a Business Insider report, the pair was tipped off by local whale watchers. ‘It was a male with an erect normal upright dorsal fin,’ said Elwen. ‘It was quite unusual behaviour to see. Usually when killer whales are in the False Bay they tend to keep moving. It was very unusual to see they were staying in one area. The way it behaved we presumed it was probably feeding on something in the bottom – probably some reef associated fish or a ray or something like that.’ ‘This is the first documentation of orca vocalisations, we think, in South African waters. In general, killer whales are known for having a shared dialect. So, in groups they share a repertoire of call types,’ said Gridley. ‘As you can hear from the short clips we put up on our YouTube channel they can sound quite odd. They sound like little bursts and squeaks and whistles.'

Full Business Insider report

Conservation: Working on Fire contains Grabouw Forest flare-up

The Working on Fire (WoF) programme in the Western Cape last week dispatched the most resources yet this season to respond to a Grabouw fire. According to a Cape Times report, more than 60 firefighters from five teams, three aerial resources and four fire trucks were dispatched to assist the Overberg District Municipality, Deff and Cape Nature in fire suppression efforts in Jagersvlakte, Grabouw Forest. It is suspected the fire was a result of a flare-up of a small fire the day before. December marked the beginning of the summer fire season in the province, with WoF assisting in suppressing 16 fires that month, with the majority of the fires reported in the Western region of the province. WoF’s aerial resources spent an accumulative total of 96 hours assisting partners in water-bombing large flames that month. Of the 16 fires, four occurred in the Southern Cape and claimed an estimated 52 000ha of vegetation and forests, with a large amount burned in the Western Region.

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

 
Legalbrief Policy Watch  
 
 
Environmental: Waste management strategy published

The successful implementation of government’s revised national waste management strategy will depend on the extent to which its focus on the circular economy ‘finds a foothold in local and provincial government and the private sector’. With that in mind, a foreword from Environment, Forestry & Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy refers to the importance of ‘engagement with … National Treasury’ on the vexed issue of municipal operational expenditure. A Policy Watch report notes that, building on lessons learned implementing the 2011 strategy, its replacement’s overarching objectives are ‘zero waste in landfills’; cleaner communities; well-managed, financially stable waste services; and a culture of ‘zero tolerance’ for pollution, litter and illegal dumping. Interventions will include ‘addressing the role of vulnerable groups, waste pickers and the informal sector’ in the circular economy; supporting women, youth and people living with disabilities in that context; ‘increasing participation rates in residential separation-at-source programmes’; and ‘investing in the economies associated with transporting … recyclables to waste processing facilities’.

Full Policy Watch report

Environmental: Expansion strategy gazetted

The 10-year national botanical gardens expansion strategy approved for implementation at an 18 November 2020 Cabinet meeting has been gazetted. As things now stand, North West and Limpopo Provinces have yet to establish a national botanical garden, while there is no demonstration garden representing the country’s desert biome and a section of the Indian Ocean coastal belt north of the Kei River mouth. A Policy Watch report notes that in addressing this, the intention is to partner with agencies, institutions, private landowners and the management of existing conservation areas, among other things, with the aim of minimising the need to acquire ‘new private land on behalf of the state’. In expanding gardens already well established, the focus will be on conserving adjacent habitats; incorporating additional natural habitat as ‘biodiversity and climate adaptation corridors for flora and fauna’; and introducing additional unique and/or threatened species, vegetation types and habitats not already represented.

Full Policy Watch report

 
Analyses  
 
 
Energy: IPP drive should be more inclusive

Government does not have the human and material resources to transform Eskom into a behemoth capable of providing uninterrupted power to every home and business in the country. Eskom is knee-deep in debt and its plants are running on old, inefficient equipment that should be replaced. ‘Economic and demographic growth also outstrip Eskom’s capacity to satisfy the country’s needs going forward,’ says the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation’s Dr Roland Ngam. Eskom, he notes, has admitted that load shedding is expected to be with us for the next two to three years, while the National Union of Mineworkers is placing all its chips on Eskom, saying Independent Power Producers (IPPs) are not assisting the country in dealing with load shedding. In his opinion piece on the Daily Maverick site, Ngam says Eskom failings means there is no alternative. ‘IPPs are here to stay and we are heading for a world with more IPPs, not fewer. In preparation for this eventuality, and while acknowledging that it is important to improve workers’ lives now, we should be calling for solar panel subsidies, wind farms, more green electricity, socially owned IPP licences, preferential share deals in the new utilities, etc.’ He says we should be calling on the government to publish details on how much electricity will be purchased and at what price. This information can then be used to sign offtake agreements which in turn can be used to establish IPPs that belong to individuals, unions, farms, stokvels, community trusts, provincial governments and women’s groups. ‘If a large percentage of South Africans can be convinced to invest anything from R100 to R100 000 in power production, then democratising Eskom’s ownership can also play a major role in boosting the post Covid-19 economy,’ he says. ‘If it is so much cheaper and faster to create more IPPs around the country, why cling obstinately to a model that has become a millstone around the country’s neck?’ Ngam says it is counter-productive to force the state to play a monopoly role ‘that it is simply incapable of assuming at the moment’.

Full analysis on the Daily Maverick site

Climate Change: Biden boldly lays out US transformative vision

Newly-inaugurated US President Joe Biden made a low key foray into the issue that many believe will define his time in power; the environment, notes Legalbrief. Writing in an analysis in The Guardian, Oliver Milman, environmental reporter, notes that ‘on 'Climate Day', Biden bumped elbows with his newly appointed climate tsar, John Kerry, who he called his “best buddy”, then gave a short speech before perfunctorily signing a small stack of executive orders, donning his mask and striding out without taking any questions’. ‘The vision laid out in the actions signed by Biden two weeks ago, however, was transformative,’ Milman points out. ‘A pathway for oil and gas drilling to be banned from public lands. A third of America’s land and ocean protected. The government ditching the combustion engine from its entire vehicle fleet, offering up a future where battery-powered trucks deliver America’s mail and electric tanks are operated by the US military,’ he elaborates. He quotes Tim Profeta, an environmental policy expert at Duke University, who said: ‘The whole approach is classic Biden; working-class values, putting people to work.’ ‘The dizzying list of actions demonstrated the breadth and depth of the climate crisis. Biden’s administration will spur new climate-friendly policies for farmers while also devoting resources to the urban communities, typically low-income people of colour, disproportionally blighted by pollution from nearby highways and power plants.’

‘In all, 21 federal agencies will be part of a new, overarching climate body,’ explains Milman. ‘Those who know Biden say the President views the climate crisis as an opportunity to create employment in a Covid-ravaged economy,’ he states. ‘The President argues a $2tn clean energy plan will bring millions of new jobs by refashioning the power grid to run on carbon-free sources such as solar and wind within 15 years, building a new generation of energy-efficient homes and electric cars and mopping up pollution from oil and gas wells,’ the analysis in The Guardian quotes Milman as saying. ‘The American public’s concern over the climate crisis is at record levels, with even a majority of Republican voters supporting government intervention in the wake of a year of unprecedented wildfires and hurricanes that cost hundreds of lives and tens of billions of dollars,’ he writes. ‘The question is now whether the US is able to change quickly enough to avert further disaster, rather than if it will change at all,’ Milman concludes, quoting Kerry who said: ‘The stakes on climate change couldn’t be any higher than they are now. Failure is literally not an option.’

Full analysis in The Guardian

 
Africa  
 
 
Conservation: Fencing-in linked to mass elephant die-off

An international study led by the University of Pretoria's (UP) Professor Rudi van Aarde suggests that the mass die-off of 350 elephants in one area of northern Botswana last year could be attributed to the fencing-in of these animals. According to a Cape Times report, Van Aarde, Emeritus Professor of Zoology and chair of Conservation Ecology at UP's Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, said while the causes of the deaths were ‘still unknown and will never be known’, the fencing-in of these elephants in one area, and their relatively high densities, probably explain why the die-off occurred. The study, published in PeerJ – Life and Environment, suggests a ‘re-alignment or removal of fences that restrict elephant movements and limits year round access to freshwater’ is needed. In September, officials in Botswana indicated that cyanobacteria (toxic bacteria which can occur naturally in standing water and sometimes grow into large blooms known as blue-green algae) were the source of the deaths. However, Van Aarde said: ‘Restriction of freshwater supplies that force elephants to use pans as a water source possibly polluted by blue-green algae blooms is a possible cause, but as yet not supported by evidence.’ ‘We may never have a definitive answer. Instead, the best we can do is to sketch the ecological aspects and setting of the affected area, its elephants, and its surroundings,’ said Van Aarde.

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

Study

 

The Namibian Government put up 170 wild elephants for sale on 29 January, justified by false population statistics and disputed claims of human-elephant conflict. More than 100 000 people have signed a petition condemning the action, notes a Daily Maverick report. The Namibian Government said it has too many elephants and that the 170 were problem-causing animals. According to professional guide and conservationist Stephan Scholvin, about 90 were to be captured on former indigenous San ancestral lands which have been seized and distributed to political elites. Many of the targeted elephants were from transnational herds which migrate across countries, as they have for thousands of years. Conservationists argue that they do not belong to any one country for their exploitation or slaughter. Namibia refused to take part in the Africa-wide Great Elephant Census of 2016, keeping its actual population numbers secret. Exaggerating population statistics and human-wildlife conflict helps governments create a range of revenue-generating initiatives including high hunting quotas, sales to zoos and hunting farms, and ivory-generating culls. Adding to the suspicion of corruption is that no mention of the sale of problem elephants was made at the recent Namibian Elephant Management Plan meeting, according to conservationists. According to them, the public auction may be a show to help justify an already planned cull of these elephants, with hunts sold to hunters under the country’s ‘damage-causing animals’ classification. The government may have already sold hunting licences to buyers such as a Mexican millionaire who owns Erindi.com and Russian billionaire Rashid Sardarov.

Full Daily Maverick report

Criminal: Kenyan linked to global smuggling syndicate

A Kenyan man has pleaded not guilty in a US court to trafficking illegal ivory and rhino horn. New York prosecutors say Mansur Mohamed Surur was part of an ‘international conspiracy’ responsible for the slaughter of more than 100 elephants and dozens of rhinos. Some exports were hidden inside African masks and statues, court documents allege. Money was allegedly paid from foreign customers by international wire transfers, some which were sent through US financial institutions. The Nation reports that New York District Attorney Audrey Strauss said Surur was allegedly part of an international syndicate that has been evading law enforcement officers for years. He was arrested by Directorate of Criminal Investigation detectives after landing on a chartered flight from Yemen. Surer is wanted in the US for allegedly conspiring to sell elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn and heroin. ‘The enterprise is allegedly responsible for the illegal slaughter of dozens of rhinos and more than 100 elephants, both endangered species,’ the New York District Attorney’s office said in a statement. BBC News reports that he and three other suspects – Amara Cherif, Moazu Kromah and Abdi Hussein Ahmed – are accused of conducting illegal ivory sales with buyers in Manhattan and south-east Asia. They are all now in the US except Ahmed who ‘remains a fugitive’.

Full report in The Nation

Full BBC News report

Climate Change: West African 'sacred forests' are carbon sinks – study

Researchers have found that the soil across West Africa has played a vital role towards mitigating the effects of climate change. A Cape Argus report notes that a team of scientists from SA and Europe found that the ‘Sacred Forests’ in Togo, West Africa have been storing – over several hundred km² – carbon dioxide. Researcher Michele Francis, from Stellenbosch University’s Department of Soil Science, said: ‘Our study showed that soils in these forests preserve at least 8.64 tons of inorganic carbon per hectare. This carbon is derived directly from the carbon dioxide in the air of the soil. In real terms, we are talking about an area the size of a rugby field that permanently removed as much carbon dioxide as is released by a power station burning 15.8 tons of coal.’ Francis said the soil’s inorganic carbon was an important carbon sink because the carbon was permanently locked away in mineral form, unlike carbon derived from organic soil matter made up from leaves and other plant material.

Full Cape Argus report (subscription needed)

Climate Change: Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme launched

African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Programme (AAAP) on 25 January to mobilise $25bn to scale up and accelerate climate change adaptation actions across Africa. According to an Engineering News report, the launch announcement occurred during the Climate Adaptation Summit 2021, hosted by the government of the Netherlands and the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA). The AAAP – a joint initiative between the AfDB and the GCA – is expected to scale up innovative and transformative actions on climate adaptation across Africa, Adesina said during the inaugural Ministerial Dialogue on Adaptation Action, held as part of the summit. ‘Our ambition is bold – to galvanise climate resilience actions, support countries to accelerate and scale up climate adaptation and resilience, and mobilise financing at scale for climate adaptation in Africa,’ he said. Adesina was joined in addressing the summit by Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, former United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon, current UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A number of speakers acknowledged Africa’s vulnerability to climate change, as well as Africans’ innovative responses to challenges. The AfDB’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation initiative has leveraged $450m and provided 19m farmers in 27 countries with climate-resilient agricultural technologies, raising average yields by 60%.

Full Engineering News report

Conservation: Gorongosa Park joins global biodiversity coalition

Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park has become the first African institution to join the global coalition ‘United for Biodiversity’, according to a press release from the Park. A report on the allAfrica site notes that ‘United for Biodiversity’ is an initiative that was launched by the European Union Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, on the occasion of the World Wildlife Day 2020. The coalition calls for strong mobilisation of all world research centres, science and natural history museums, botanic gardens, zoos, parks, aquariums and beyond to make their voices heard about the crisis in the natural world, at a time when science warns us that a m i l l i o n species are at risk of extinction. ‘With close to 7 000 documented species of animals and plants, and landscapes that encompass nearly every habitat type found in south-eastern Africa, Gorongosa National Park represents exceptional biological richness that must be protected at all cost,’ said Piotr Naskrecki, associate director of the EO Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory in Gorongosa. After the announcements of the Axios Delta and Lake Kerkini parks in Greece and the Van Gogh national park in Holland, Gorongosa becomes the fourth park in the world to join the coalition.

Full report on the allAfrica site

 
World  
 
 
Climate Change: Doomsday Clock kept at 100 seconds to midnight

The election of Joe Biden could be a step towards a ‘safer and saner world’ but the planet remains dangerously close to nuclear and climate change catastrophe, at ‘100 seconds to midnight’ according to a panel of top scientists. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the hands of its ‘Doomsday Clock’, a measure of the ‘world’s vulnerability to catastrophe’, had not moved since last year, notes a report in The Guardian. ‘The pandemic revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly,’ the Bulletin, co-founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein, said. It added that the worsening spread of disinformation and conspiracy theories was acting as a multiplier to the worsening threats of nuclear conflict and the climate emergency. The statement did not mention Donald Trump by name, but pointed to the 6 January storming of the US Capitol, which was incited by the former President, saying it renewed ‘legitimate concerns about national leaders who have sole control of the use of nuclear weapons’. The statement welcomed Biden’s first steps as President, rejoining the Paris climate accord and extending the New Start arms control agreement with Russia for five years. But it raised concerns that plans for economic recovery around the world lacked the needed emphasis on low-carbon investment. ‘In aggregate, the G20 countries had committed approximately $240bn to stimulus spending that supports fossil fuel energy by the end of 2020, versus $160bn for clean energy,’ the statement said. ‘At present, national plans for fossil fuel development and production are anything but encouraging.’

Full report in The Guardian

 

The planet is hotter now than it has been for at least 12 000 years, a period spanning the entire development of human civilisation, according to research. A report in The Guardian, analysis of ocean surface temperatures shows human-driven climate change has put the world in ‘uncharted territory’, the scientists say. The planet may even be at its warmest for 125 000 years, although data on that far back is less certain. The research, published in the journal Nature, reached these conclusions by solving a longstanding puzzle known as the ‘Holocene temperature conundrum’. Climate models have indicated continuous warming since the last ice age ended 12 000 years ago and the Holocene period began. But temperature estimates derived from fossil shells showed a peak of warming 6 000 years ago and then a cooling, until the industrial revolution sent carbon emissions soaring. ‘We demonstrate that global average annual temperature has been rising over the last 12 000 years, contrary to previous results,’ said Samantha Bova, at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in the US, who led the research. ‘This means that the modern, human-caused global warming period is accelerating a long-term increase in global temperatures, making today completely uncharted territory. It changes the baseline and emphasises just how critical it is to take our situation seriously.’ Jennifer Hertzberg, of Texas A&M University in the US, said: ‘By solving a conundrum that has puzzled climate scientists for years, Bova and colleagues’ study is a major step forward. Understanding past climate change is crucial for putting modern global warming in context.’

Full report in The Guardian

Study

 

Earth’s ice is melting faster today than in the mid-1990s, new research suggests, as climate change nudges global temperatures ever higher. According to a report in The Mercury, altogether, an estimated 28trn metric tons of ice have melted away from the world’s sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers since the mid-1990s. Annually, the melt rate is now about 57% faster than it was three decades ago, scientists report in a study published in the journal The Cryosphere. ‘It was a surprise to see such a large increase in just 30 years,’ said co-author Thomas Slater, a glaciologist at Leeds University in Britain. While the situation is clear to those depending on mountain glaciers for drinking water, or relying on winter sea ice to protect coastal homes from storms, the world’s ice melt has begun to grab attention far from frozen regions, Slater said. Aside from being captivated by the beauty of polar regions, ‘people do recognise that, although the ice is far away, the effects of the melting will be felt by them’, he said. Using 1994-2017 satellite data and site measurements, the team of British scientists calculated that the world was losing an average of 0.8trn metric tons of ice a year in the 1990s, but about 1.2trn metric tons annually in recent years.

Full report in The Mercury (subscription needed)

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The biggest ever opinion poll on climate change has found two-thirds of people think it is a ‘global emergency’. According to a report in The Guardian, the survey shows people across the world support climate action and gives politicians a clear mandate to take the major action needed, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which questioned 1.2m people in 50 countries, many of them young. While younger people showed the greatest concern, with 69% of those aged 14-18 saying there is a climate emergency, 58% of those over 60 agreed, suggesting there is not a huge generational divide. Even when climate action required significant changes in their own country, majorities still backed the measures. In nations where fossil fuels are a major source of emissions, people strongly supported renewable energy, including the US (65% in favour), Australia (76%) and Russia (51%). Where the destruction of forests is a big cause of emissions, people supported conservation of trees, with 60% support in Brazil and 57% in Indonesia. Overall, the most popular actions to tackle the climate crisis were protecting and restoring forests, followed by renewable energy and climate-friendly farming. The promotion of plant-based diets was the least popular of the 18 policies in the survey, with only 30% support. The UNDP ran the ‘Peoples’ Climate Vote’ in 50 high-, middle- and low-income countries, representing more than half the world’s people. Experts at Oxford University weighted the replies to reflect the population of each nation.

Cassie Flynn, the UNDP’s strategic adviser on climate change, said the survey connects the climate concerns of people, particularly the young, with governments at a time when accelerated action must be agreed, in particular at a UN climate summit in November. A report in The Guardian notes that the climate crisis continued unabated in 2020, with the joint highest global temperatures on record. Flynn heads the UNDP’s Climate Promise programme that helps countries take more ambitious climate action.

Full report in The Guardian

Legislation: UK's flagship Environment Bill pushed back to May

The Environment Bill – one of Boris Johnson’s flagship pieces of legislation – has been delayed by at least six months after the government ran out of time to pass it in the current parliamentary session. According to a report in The Independent, last week the Bill had been due to begin its report stage, where it is scrutinised and debated in Parliament, but this has now been pushed back to later in the spring while the government tries to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The landmark legislation will introduce, for the first time, a broad range of legal targets for air quality, biodiversity, water quality and waste reduction, but will now be brought back to Parliament at the start of the next session, in May, and is expected to receive royal assent – at which point it will take effect – by autumn this year. The timing means it may only just scrape through Parliament ahead of the UK’s hosting of the CoP26 UN climate conference, scheduled to take place in Edinburgh in November. MPs from parties including Labour, the Greens and the Conservatives are all backing various amendments to the Bill, relating to levels of air quality targets, food import standards, protections for species, removing deforestation from supply chains, rules on use of toxic pesticides and planning permission, among others.

Environmental campaign groups and charities have reacted with disappointment to the Bill’s delay. The report in The Guardian quotes Friends of the Earth campaigner Kierra Box who said: ‘Boris Johnson’s flagship Environment Bill was already riddled with loopholes and omissions, and it now appears to be listing badly. This delay is not the action of a government wanting to demonstrate world leadership on the environmental crisis. Ministers must get on with the urgent task of cutting pollution, improving biodiversity, and stemming the flow of plastic waste pouring into our environment.’

Full report in The Independent

 

The rapid rise of renewables continued in 2020 with wind, solar, bioenergy and hydropower overtaking fossil fuels to collectively become the UK’s largest source of electricity for the first time. According to a report in The Independent, analysis from think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende found that those four cleaner energies accounted for a record 42% of the country’s electricity generation last year, while fossil fuels – mostly gas – fell into second place with a 41% share. Renewables also became the largest source of electricity for the European Union in 2020, with Germany and Spain – the bloc’s two largest electricity-consuming countries – reporting the same tipping point. Ember said the historic milestone showed ‘how momentum was building across Europe for the transition to clean electricity’. In 2019, renewables generated 37% cent of the UK’s electricity compared to 45% for fossil fuels. The study, entitled The European Power Sector in 2020, noted that for the first time, nearly a quarter (24%) of the UK’s electricity was generated by wind turbines in 2020, doubling its share since 2015 and up from 20% in 2019. Commenting on the latest report, Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace UK, said: ‘These findings confirm that despite inconsistent support from the government, renewables have continued to boom, as both the lowest cost, and most climate-friendly option for new power generation.’

Full report in The Independent

 

Trustees of pension schemes of all sizes should consider putting measures in place to assess climate-related risks and opportunities ahead of a new reporting regime aimed at the largest schemes, an expert has said. According to report on the Out-Law.com site, mandatory climate governance, strategy and risk management requirements will come into force for the largest occupational schemes and authorised master trusts on 1 October, the UK Government has confirmed. It is now consulting until 10 March on the draft regulations and statutory guidance that will implement and underpin the new requirements. The government has also published non-statutory guidance, developed by the cross-government and industry Pensions Climate Risk Industry Group, to assist trustees with assessing, managing and reporting climate-related risks in line with the recommendations of the international Taskforce on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. The expectation is that schemes initially within scope of these regulations will drive best practice in the market for the benefit of all. Last week, some of the UK's largest pension schemes wrote to the government calling for tougher action on climate change.

Full report on the Out-Law.com site

Pollution: Study links dirty air to sight loss in the elderly

Exposure to air pollution could increase the risk of developing a form of irreversible sight loss in older age, researchers have claimed following a large-scale observational study. According to a report in The Independent, the long-term research, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, found that air pollutants were linked to a heightened risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – a progressive form of sight loss. AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the over-50s in wealthy countries such as the UK, with known risk factors including older age, smoking and genetic predisposition. The research drew on data from 115 954 participants of the community-based UK Biobank study which involves more than 500 000 people. More than 52 000 people also had their eyes examined with retinal imaging to assess structural changes in the thickness and numbers of receptors in the retina which are indicative of AMD. ‘Overall, our findings suggest that ambient air pollution, especially fine particulate matter or those of combustion-related particles, may affect AMD risk,’ the researchers said. However, they noted that their research was an observational study and could not prove that pollution caused sight loss, although it echoed findings elsewhere in the world.

Full report in The Independent

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Agriculture: Indian farmers take protest to capital centre

Thousands of Indian farmers protesting against agricultural reforms breached barricades last week to enter the historic Red Fort complex in the capital and hoist flags after clashing with police, who fired tear gas to scatter them. According to a Cape Argus report, growers, angered by laws they say help large, private buyers at the expense of producers, have camped outside New Delhi for almost two months, posing one of the biggest challenges to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he came to power in 2014. Hundreds of protesters broke away from pre-approved routes, heading for the city centre where the government was holding an annual Republic Day parade of troops and military hardware. Delhi police accused those who diverged from the agreed routes of ‘violence and destruction’. Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab state where many of the protesters came from, said: ‘The violence by some elements is unacceptable.' ‘It’ll negate goodwill generated by peacefully protesting farmers.’ Nine rounds of talks with farmers’ unions have failed to end the protests, as farm leaders rejected the government’s offer to delay the laws for 18 months, making a push for repeal instead. ‘The farm organisations have a very strong hold,’ said Ambar Kumar Ghosh, an analyst at New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation. ‘They have the resources to mobilise support, and to continue the protest for a long time. They have also been very successful in keeping the protest really focused.’

Full Cape Argus report (subscription needed)

Agriculture: Pakistan invests in small water-harvesting dams

For years, Nangji Mal struggled to scrape together a living growing pulses and pearl millet on his farm in Nagarparkar, a desert area in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province. According to a report in The Herald, these days his land is lush and fertile after the government constructed new water-harvesting dams nearby. Using irrigation water from one of the small dams, Mal is growing onions, wheat and other crops on his 16ha plot and says he has seen his income increase more than 60%. Pakistan, a nation of about 220m people, faces increasing water scarcity driven by worsening climate-related drought and the demands of a growing population, water experts say. Less than 20% of the water the country’s farmers use for irrigation is captured rainwater, with most coming from ground and surface water. The Sindh provincial government hoped the new rainwater harvesting dams would not only provide farmers with a reliable water supply, but also help recharge groundwater levels, the environment adviser to the Chief Minister of Sindh, Murtaza Wahab, said. Since construction started six years ago, the provincial government had built 60 small rainwater-fed dams in the remote drought-hit areas of Nagarparkar and Kohistan, Wahab said. The plan was to build at least 23 more in the next two or three years. Besides the Sindh Government’s project, the federal government had also allocated R1.9bn to build more than 500 small dams across the country, deputy chief of water resources in the Ministry of Planning Ghazala Channar said.

Full report in The Herald (subscription needed)

Covid-19 crisis: World Food Programme warns of mass famine

Vulnerabilities in the world’s food supply system have been laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic, making global leaders more aware that, if not fixed, they could mean famine and mass migration, the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has said. A BusinessLIVE report notes that the crisis has disrupted supply chains around the globe, pushing 270m people to the brink of starvation, David Beasley, the WFP’s executive director, said at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum. ‘If we don’t receive the support and funds we need you will have mass famine, destabilisation of nations and you will have mass migration and a cost of that is one thousand times more,’ Beasley said, adding there would be more Covid-type events. Beasley said when he had arrived at the WFP four years ago there were 80m people close to starvation but even before the pandemic this spiked to 135m due to challenges such as wars and climate change. The WFP, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020, no longer just supplies food but seeks to create more opportunities for smallholder farmers in developing nations, Beasley said. He called on the private sector to work closely with smallholder farmers, not displacing them but rather integrating them strategically into supply chains.

Full BusinessLIVE report (subscription needed)

Covid-19 crisis: Circular economy can reduce emissions – NGO

Covid-19 relief and recovery plans aimed at recycling and reusing more of the billions of tons of materials consumed each year could slash planet-heating emissions and limit the impacts of climate change, researchers said last week. According to a Cape Argus report, by developing and promoting ways to reduce the amount of minerals, fossil fuels, metals and biomass used in new products, greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 39%, or 22.8bn giga tons annually, said a report by Amsterdam-based social enterprise Circle Economy. ‘Governments are making huge decisions that will shape our climate future,’ CE Martijn Lopes Cardozo said. 'They are spending billions to stimulate their economies after the Covid pandemic and they are committed to strengthening their climate commitments,' he added, referring to new national targets being submitted ahead of November’s UN climate summit. About 70% of emissions are generated by resource extraction, and the processing and manufacturing of goods to meet the needs of the world’s population, according to the fourth annual report by Circle Economy. Only about 8.6% of the 100bn tons of materials used annually are put back into service, added the report, published during the virtual ‘Davos Agenda’ event organised by the World Economic Forum. Marc de Wit, director of strategic alliances at Circle Economy, said housing, which includes commercial and industrial buildings, should reuse and recycle construction and demolition waste to divert it from landfill, while office floor space could be shrunk.

Full Cape Argus report (subscription needed)

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Covid-19 crisis: Sweden to ban mink breeding

Sweden will ban breeding of mink this year to prevent the risk of mutations of the coronavirus spreading to humans, the government said last week. Denmark, one of the world’s biggest producers of fur for the fashion industry, slaughtered its entire herd of around 17m in November after hundreds of farms suffered outbreaks of coronavirus and authorities found mutated strains of the virus among people, notes a Cape Times report. Sweden recorded coronavirus cases at several mink farms, although authorities said in December the animals had not been found to carry the mutated strain as evident in Denmark.

Full Cape Times report (subscription needed)

Pollution: Appeal court orders EIA for Keystone pipeline

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last week upheld a district judge’s order for an environmental impact review of the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). However, the court declined to shut the line down while the review is completed. A Jurist report notes that the DAPL transports crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois. The pipeline passes beneath Lake Oahe, which provides several Great Sioux Nation successor tribes with water for drinking, industry and sacred cultural practices. Despite protests over the pipeline, the US Army Corps of Engineers granted an easement for the pipeline to cross the federally owned land. Under the National Environmental Protection Act, any federal agency that issues construction permits, opens new land to drilling or undertakes any other ‘major’ project must look at the project’s environmental consequences. The federal agency must develop an environmental impact statement (EIS) identifying and ‘rigorously’ appraising the project’s environmental effects, but it does not have to develop an EIS if it finds that the project will have ‘no significant impact’. In July, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the easement and ordered the pipeline to be shut down and emptied of oil pending a review of its environmental impact.

Full Jurist report

 
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Enviro Briefs

* Three men, arrested for being in possession of elephant tusks valued at R168 000 at a mall in Polokwane on Friday, have been denied bail. David Mathonsi, Raymond Move and Ben Shiburi appeared in the Polokwane Magistrate's Court. The trio was arrested in a joint undercover operation by police as they were trying to sell the tusks.

– News24

 

* African Rainbow Energy and Power (Arep) has expanded its investment into renewable energy with a strategic 40% stake in the Sola Group. The acquisition, which has been completed, makes Arep the largest individual shareholder in the group. Sola is a solar installation company active in SA’s public and private sector, having been awarded 245MW of the government’s independent green power projects, 78MW commercial solar PV and 7MWh storage projects.

— BusinessLIVE

 

* Solo rower Zirk Botha last week reached the halfway mark of his journey across the Atlantic Ocean, two weeks ahead of schedule. During Botha’s row from Cape Town to Rio de Janeiro, only solar panels and solar-charged batteries are being used as a source of electricity for his boat. The renewable energy maintains the boat's water-maker (desalinator), auto-pilot, safety equipment, radio and satellite communications equipment.

– Cape Argus (subscription needed)

 

* Seven hundred and fifty pelicans have been found dead in a Unesco World Heritage Site in northern Senegal that provides refuge for millions of migratory birds, the country’s parks director has said. Rangers found the pelicans last week in the Djoudj bird sanctuary, a remote pocket of wetland near the border with Mauritania and a resting place for birds that cross the Sahara into west Africa each year. Authorities have closed the park and ordered the incineration of the dead birds as a precaution.

– The Guardian

 

* India has approved a R52.8bn investment for an 850 MW Ratle hydropower project on Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir. A joint venture will be formed for this project by National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, India’s largest organisation for hydropower development and Jammu & Kashmir State Power Development Corporation. The project will start its commercial operation within five years.

– Out-Law.com

 

* A new global partnership has been formally launched in an effort to accelerate the decarbonisation of seven heavy industrial and transport sectors that together represent 30% of global greenhouse-gas emissions and where carbon-abatement pathways have yet to be defined. Known as the ‘Mission Possible Partnership’ it will focus specifically on the transportation sectors of aviation, shipping and trucking, as well as the aluminium, cement, chemicals and steel industries.

– Mining Weekly

 

* The Australian Smart Energy Council and the German Energy Agency, known as Deutsche Energie-Agentur, have formed a partnership to certify that hydrogen and other variants from fossil fuels are green. The bodies will work together on initiatives to support new green hydrogen developments, identify barriers and seek opportunities on trade between Australia and Germany across the hydrogen supply chain.

– Out-Law.com

Side Bars

Learners on their way to Antarctica

The five matriculants who secured a trip to Antarctica have finally departed after preparing themselves during their nine-day Covid-19 isolation at the Table Bay hotel. Their first stop will be the Novolazarevskaya Antarctic research station in Russia. MIA founder Riaan Manser, who will be at the forefront of guiding the learners, said: ‘This is going to be a groundbreaking expedition during the five days there in terms of data gathering. These five bright kids will get an intimate, first-hand understanding of Antarctica.’ Touching the ice in Antarctica would allow them to return a lot more ambitious to fight climate change, he said. ‘The fact that Cape Town is an easy portal to the continent means we have to make sure that our country’s citizens are being introduced to Antarctica at a young age and to also start taking some personal responsibility because of our proximity,’ Manser added.

– Cape Argus (subscription needed)

 

Anti-nukes photo exhibit

Environmental researcher, writer and photographer Neil Overy, who recently completed an Master in Philosophy degree in Environmental Humanities South at UCT, has launched an online exhibition ‘to raise awareness of the problem of nuclear power within the context of a just energy transition in SA’. The project examines the Koeberg nuclear power station and its relationship to Cape Town. In Overy’s words, it ‘emphasises the almost entirely rhetorical role played by the emergency planning zone (EPZ), which extends 16km in radius around the reactor site’. ‘Rather than offer a way to control and manage a serious accident at Koeberg, the EPZ is conceived to do little more than, in Susan Sontag’s words, “distract us from terrors”,’ argues Overy. ‘Just as the rest of the world is turning away from nuclear power because of its dangers and excessive costs, South Africa seems intent on embracing its intergenerational toxicity,’ he warns.

– New Frame

 
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