Fighting climate change at home
"We can all do more. We should all do more - in every office and every home in South Africa." This was the message of South African Environment Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, announcing the energy-efficiency conversion of his home to mark the first anniversary of the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on Monday.
South Africa is one of the signatories to the protocol, an amendment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change according to which countries commit to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases, or engage in emissions trading if they maintain or increase emissions.
Joined by a team of energy efficiency experts from Eskom, Van Schalkwyk announced details of the "greening" of De Meule, his residence in Cape Town - the installation of energy-efficient lighting, solar water heating, better insulation, and a range of other measures. The homes of other ministers and government leaders will undergo the same treatment in the next few months.
"In the same way that the effects of climate change - such as increased flooding, droughts, and fires - affect all of us in our own communities, so too must we accept personal responsibility for doing our part to fight against climate change," Van Schalkwyk said.
"Action by governments around the world is the most visible in addressing these challenges, but governments alone will never make the difference. The reason we are here today is to highlight what each and every South African can do, in his or her own home, to reduce the amount of energy that we use.
"Few people realise what it means when a switch is flipped and a light turned on. The average lightbulb does a great deal more than just shed light, it is responsible for electricity consumption which costs the homeowner almost R2 per bulb per month. That cost, however, is not the worst cost.
"The electricity has to be generated - in our case by Eskom. This means that coal needs to be burned, which in turn leads to the emission of greenhouse gases - a major contributor to climate change."
One light bulb = 430kg of coal
Speaking about the potential for energy savings, the minister said: "Changing just one older light bulb to the more energy efficient compact fluorescent lamp will already make major changes: the electricity saving is about R1,50 a month and R18.50 a year, but, more dramatically, this one bulb changed will save, over its lifetime, about 430kg of coal and 1 100 litres of water - used at the power plant to generate the extra energy needed by the normal bulb.
"The changes that will be made to De Meule today may seem quite minor but the results will be dramatic: at least a 40% saving on the total energy consumed, with more than 80 litres of water, 31kg of coal, and 56kg of CO2 emissions saved every day. That's more than 29 000 litres of water, 11 300kg of coal, and 20 400kg of CO2 in just one year - in just one home."
Development and environment
Recalling the success of the National Conferences on Climate Change last year, Van Schalkwyk outlined plans to intensify the South African government's response to climate change in 2006.
"Through our chairing of the G77 this year, we will continue to promote a better balance between adaptation and mitigation in the global response to climate change.
"In South Africa we will also be rolling out our first Carbon Development Mechanism projects - such as the one right here in Kuyasa, Khayelitsha, using cleaner development to generate revenue from developed nations to support our climate change actions."
Other plans include implementing the agreement with the SA private sector on emissions, using the new Air Quality Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions reporting and encourage cleaner production, and reviewing the SA Climate Change Response Strategy.
"What today is meant to underline is how everyone - in government, in business, in academia and in every community - has the capacity and the responsibility to make a real difference in our efforts to combat climate change and its worst effects," Van Schalkwyk said.