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Green economy 2019 wrap-up

by | Jan 21, 2020 | Blog

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by Hugh Tyrrell

Two major shifts occurred during 2019, one on a national level, the other international.

Our new national environmental minister quickly showed she has what it takes to get things moving. Barbara Creecy, in her short tenure so far, has stopped a coal mine development in a threatened grassland catchment, paused the fishing quota allocation process to enable more consultation with communities, and signed off on 50 new marine protected areas.

Her openness to dialogue as evidenced by hosting the Plastic Colloquium shows an understanding of the importance of engendering trust and positive working relationships between government and industry, which bodes well for the new year. Plastic packaging continues to be against the ropes but the colloquium did foster a new accord of sorts between government and industry.

The government’s Carbon Tax came in without too much consternation and has opened up a flourishing market in advisory services for carbon tax avoidance.

Then there was the fairly well thought-through long-term plan for a ‘just transition’ from coal to renewables as part of Eskom’s rejuvenation. This has been favourably received by COSATU, possibly because it goes into some depth about how fossil fuel jobs can be transformed through building a renewable energy/4IR/tech industry, centered in and around the main coal mining areas.

Internationally, the climate crisis has come front and centre with widespread fires, floods and drought unleashed on millions, along with more dire predictions of dwindling time to get things right before a rapid deterioration of the planet’s life-support systems. Greta Thunberg being named as Time magazine’s person of the year, the youngest to date, has focused attention and appreciation of what she stands for and has done so far.

Expectations of a progressive COP25 outcome in 2019 were set back by fossil fuel lobby groups and their government toadies (USA, Australia, Russia, Brazil) who may be starting to use desperate but well-funded measures as their moral position flounders and risks increase.

The conference again showed up the institutional roadblocks that current political systems meet in dealing with the climate crisis and other issues. Useful democratic alternatives however are starting to come up, such as the ‘Citizen’s Assembly’ which is successfully creating consensus on abortion legislation in Ireland. It’s also being used in England where a Citizen’s Climate Assembly is coming together.

World Economic Forum founder Kaus Schwab has highlighted this practical and democratic process so these new approaches should be on the table when he hosts this year’s WEF gathering in late January.

So in all, there are glimmers that the pace of reform is gathering, which bodes well for a better 2020.

– Hugh Tyrrell is director of GreenEdge, a specialist sustainability communication and change consultancy founded in 2000.

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