As a country with immense natural wealth, climate change is an issue that South Africa cannot afford to ignore. Department of Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa set out the challenges facing our beautiful country and what we can do to create a better future for our world.
As a university, UJ has taken the challenge of finding new, clean ways to power our lives by the horns. The UJ Solar Movement uses a multi-disciplinary approach, which allows different faculties, including the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, the Faculty of Management, and the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, to contribute their unique skill sets to the project. It already produced several outstanding solar cars, including Ilanga II, fêted champion of UJ's recent African Solar Drive. The world-class solar car covered over 4000km as it journeyed through South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, proving that solar power is more than just a novelty – it can be put to practical use. Solar power is entirely green energy, producing no emissions or waste material.
On 14 September 2015, the University of Johannesburg hosted Minister Molewa for an evening of raising awareness and inspiring change. The event was opened by Prof Angina Parekh, Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic, who restated UJ's firm commitment to the promotion of earth-conscious social entrepreneurship, community engagement and the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the creation of environmental awareness. Then CSIR Principal Engineer Crescent Mushwana took the stage to speak about the opportunities for renewable resources, including solar power, to be developed in South Africa.
The 21st Conference of Parties to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be hosted by Paris in November this year, and Minister Molewa took the opportunity to highlight the need for action. She warned that climate change cannot be ignored or dismissed, as it "poses one of the most serious threats to Africa's long term sustainability and economic growth and the quality of life of our people". Apart from its impact on the natural world, it is important to acknowledge that climate change will, if left unchecked, have a disastrous impact on the gains made by developing countries in other sectors, which will be amongst the hardest hit by its effects.
However, the government has been working with both the public and private sectors to implement emission-reduction strategies and enable South Africa to develop a low-carbon economy and society. "By 2030," the Minister declared, "we aim to have decreased fossil energy demand significantly, creating alternative renewables through new technological innovation, good behavioural practices and a public commitment to more efficient, sustainable and equitable energy use."