The last few weeks have seen the green paper on the national planning commission which will be headed up by the Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel. As announced at the briefing, this Ministry will concern itself with longer term issues by formulating plans that look fifteen years into the future
From an environmental perspective this is a welcome development, as environmental issues have always tended to be dealt with in a reactive way rather than being considered as a pivotal determinant of our countryís long term future. It was also welcome to hear the Minister refer to natural resource constraints such as water availability as special issues which his Ministry will attempt to grapple with.
Although this Ministry currently exhibits some promise of ushering in a new era of planning for sustainable development it remains to be seen whether the current unsustainable plans of different government departments will be challenged. In particular, Eskom is currently making decisions that will lock us into a highly polluting energy future for the next forty years regardless of what plans this new Ministry might come up with in the future. It is also disappointing to see that eskom has used its present financial woes as another excuse to simply jettison any plans that it did have for wind or solar power.
The proposed concentrated solar thermal power station in upington has been on the drawing board for ten years and eskomís board has simply refused to put the money towards it. the new renewable energy feed-in tariffs are also being jeapordised by eskom refusing to sign power purchase agreements unless they are compensated for the extra expenditure. It is therefore clear that south africa requires both planning and the political will to take on entrenched interests if we are going to truly build a sustainable future for our country.
Lance is Chief Whip of the parliamentary caucus and the National Policy Convenor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org