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Can we deliver on bold plan?

28 August 2012 - 02:14 By Crispian Olver
Crispian Olver
Crispian Olver

The National Development Plan has given us a bold and beautiful vision of where we could be in 2030 - a community that cares, that carefully balances its impact on the environment with its social and economic needs. In its soaring, poetic language the plan states that "each and every one of us is intimately and inextricably of this earth with its beauty and life-giving sources".

This seems to stand in stark contrast to the prevailing fragmented vision of mis-governance and neglect, so starkly epitomised by the tragic events at Marikana.

Can our deeds grow to match the flowing poetry of our words? In fact, do the policies we adopt and the words we write have any impact on our deeds?

The critics of the National Development Plan have picked on this one aspect - it is a fine plan, coherent and articulate, but can the crumbling institutions of the state deliver on it?

From an environmental point of view, the plan has some powerfully strong prescripts. It acknowledges that the South African economy is unsustainably resource intensive, and it raises serious questions about the capital costs of nuclear power, the carbon impact of new coal-fired power stations at Medupi and Kusile, and the long-term future of energy-guzzling smelters. The plan commits us to procuring at least 20000MW of renewable electricity by 2030.

It sets out a path for our economy to become less carbon intensive, and it describes the instruments we will use to achieve this. It also opens up the idea of offsetting the environmental impact on new developments, which could significantly spur the rehabilitation of ecosystems.

The plan equally has some downsides for the environment - it promotes the use of gas in our energy generation mix as a transitional fuel, including exploration for shale gas.

It advocates the continued exploitation of our mineral resources, including building a new coal line to unlock coal deposits in the Waterberg. There is a significant focus on infrastructure development which will inevitably impact on the environment. But, on balance, this plan is a big step forward for sustainable development.

It brings environmental concerns into the mainstream of social and economic planning, and puts it in language that appeals to all South Africans - "This space I share. I maintain it with others. I am not self-sufficient alone. We are self-sufficient in community." Let's focus now on how to deliver this vision.