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ITWeb Thursday 10 December 2009

 Government’s proposal to cut SA’s greenhouse gas emissions will force businesses to become more energy efficient, with IT leading the way to a low carbon economy.

 This is according to Tim James, founding director of Sustainable IT, who says government’s offer is very achievable, even with the current investment Eskom has in coal-based power.

The Presidency has offered to cut emissions by 34% below expected levels by 2020, and 42% by 2025, as climate negations get under way in Copenhagen. The pledge is conditional to a fair and effective agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as financial and technological support from developed countries.

“The offer is a reduction in emissions intensity, rather than a reduction from a stated baseline, which makes it less compelling. But it certainly is a massive help towards achieving a deal in Copenhagen,” says James.

He adds that organisations will need to become more energy efficient, with pricing levels dictating this, irrespective of the target that may or may not be set in Copenhagen.

“Setting aggressive targets for SA business will force a reduction in carbon intensity within manufacture, which will stand SA companies in very good stead in a carbon-competitive future landscape,” says James.

These reduction figures are in line with SA’s Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios, released last year to set a strategic direction for the country’s climate policy.

Angus Rowe and Siegfried Brits, from sustainability solutions provider impactChoice SA, say the reduction targets would bring future emission levels back to almost the current level, at around 450 million tons of CO2 per year. “It seems a very ambitious target, but not impossible to achieve given stringent regulations that need to be put into place,” they add.

“The execution of such an ambitious target will no doubt lead to a cap-and-trade system whereby emissions levels will have to be allocated to economic sectors and companies within these sectors,” add Brits and Rowe.

They explain that allocations under a cap-and-trade system will leave especially large emitters with an allowable cap of emissions, while the surplus will have to be made good by buying carbon credits.

“While burdensome on emitters, this system will facilitate funding and the impetus to grow green projects on a proliferated basis, which in turn will deliver green energy for the future.”

 James points out that energy has been very cheap, particularly for corporate and industrial SA, meaning there was no real incentive to adopt low carbon solutions. “It has to change in future – our very livelihoods depend on it.

“What many fail to realise is that the opportunity for SA is enormous. Because our economy is already energy constrained, embracing and investing in clean tech and clean energy now will give us a massive competitive advantage in the future.”

According to James, ICT has an enormous role to play in moving SA towards a low-carbon economy. “IT allows us to be smart. It allows us to measure, monitor and, ultimately, reduce.

“IT is all about innovation, being efficient and adaptation. The fight against climate change demands this and IT will be at the forefront of much of the new design and innovation that is required.”

Brits and Rowe add that several factors are converging to provide a strong impetus for energy transformation in the country. “Given that the South African targets be ratified in the new global warming treaty at Copenhagen, together with the current and expected future electricity crisis in SA, companies will have no choice but to adapt all of their strategies to incorporate sustainability objectives – else business as usual will be going out of business.”

President Jacob Zuma will head to the climate negotiations next week to meet with heads of state to broker a global climate deal beyond 2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end.

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