Dr Thulasizwe Mkhabela
A key component of development and sustainable livelihoods is access to reliable, clean and efficient energy sources. The world is moving towards a 100% renewable energy future, fueled by changes in the global power sector. “For the first time in the industrial era, capitalist economies are investing heavily in renewable energy,” says Professor Mark Swilling, professor of sustainable development iat the School of Public Leadership at Stellenbosch University when addressing the 4th National Conference on Global Change in Polokwane, South Africa.
Professor Swilling says 179 countries around the world, including South Africa, have set renewable energy targets. He says, 57 of these are committed to producing 100% of their energy supplies from renewable sources in the near future. He says the total annual investment in renewable energy is now nearly $300 billion, which is double the total investment in fossil fuels and nuclear energy combined. Investment in renewables has exceeded that of fossil fuels since 2009. Professor Swilling notes that energy from renewable sources is now cheaper than fossil fuels in 100 countries. “Between 2009 and 2015 the cost of wind energy dropped by 50% and the cost of solar energy dropped by 80%. Renewable energy, including hydro-energy, will soon meet 20% of the world’s energy needs,” said Swilling.
Minister of Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande says the world is confronted with a number of complex and overwhelming challenges that will require a range of responses. Through the United Nations, the countries of the world have committed to working together under various frameworks to tackle the challenges of sustainable energy solutions.
Limpopo MEC for Finance, Rob Tooley, notes that research and innovation are crucial to find lasting solutions. “The sustainable solutions we all yearn for depend on our ability and willingness to research and innovate,” he concluded.
The DSI and the National Research Foundation have initiated a number of global change programmes, among others the Applied Centre for Climate and Earth Systems Science (ACCESS), the Foundational Biodiversity Information Programme, and the Africa Earth Observatory Network, all of which play an important role in helping address the challenges and seize the opportunities arising from global change.