Tuesday, November 19, 2013

SA’s road to ‘greener economy’ demands better education


SOUTH Africa uses more energy per unit of gross domestic product than most countries. This is the result of our dependence on coal as a source of energy.
This is neither good nor bad, and definitely not a sin; it is simply a product of our natural endowment in minerals and the evolution of our economy.
South Africa’s pathway to a greener economy will require us to progressively reduce these intensities, but at the same time, we must reduce poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Reducing the carbon-fuelled energy intensity of our economy means increasing the amount of better-paid, higher-skilled jobs. This demands that we produce better-qualified learners, especially in mathematics and science, with a good understanding of renewable energy.
These learners and graduates will then have the skills to help us reduce our dependence on coal as an energy source through the transformation of our energy sector, progressively using other forms of energy such as hydro, gas, wind, nuclear and solar.
South Africa has high aspirations for a "green economy" but is pursuing a suite of climate-change policy options that will progressively shut down its industry and manufacturing sectors. These policy options aim to restrict carbon emissions at a high price to the economy, when the aim should be rather to reduce carbon emissions.
We have to make choices. South Africa cannot afford to pursue policy options that even developed countries have found to be too expensive.
For South Africa to move to a lower-carbon economy, while alleviating poverty, creating jobs and growing economically, it must get its policy priorities right as a matter of urgency.
Also, there remain serious structural challenges, such as inequality or 51% youth unemployment. South Africa’s Gini index score of 63.1 (in 2009) makes it one of the most unequal countries in the world. Based on the quality of South African mathematics and science, the World Economic Forum places the country last out of 151 countries.
If we really want to "green" South Africa’s economy, then, as a first priority, we must sort out the current devastation in the education system. We owe this to our children and the future of our country.

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