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South Africa: Green NGOs critise cabinet’s biofuel plan

Two nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) yesterday bemoaned what they said was lack of consultation in the development of government’s biofuels strategy.
Within days of cabinet’s approval of the strategy, Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Project (Seccp) and the Citizens United for Renewable Energy and Sustainability (Cures) said government consulted only the private sector, ignoring civil society.

According to the strategy, biofuels could contribute about 75% of the country’s renewable energy by 2013 without a negative effect on food security. It is estimated that R6bn in capital investment will be needed to create a biofuels industry.

Biofuels and business process outsourcing, along with tourism, are sectors that have been identified as key growth areas in terms of government’s Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative.

“While there is qualified support for the biofuels strategy, civil society has input that could help government ensure that such a plan takes account of the concerns of a broader range of stakeholders and interests,” the organisations said.

They called for “full and compre-hensive” public participation in order “to allow voices of the small-scale farmers, environmental NGOs, rural developers and all other sectors to be clearly heard and their concerns and issues to be incorporated into the strategy”.

Minerals and Energy department spokeswoman Bontle Mafuna said the strategy was not the final product.

“Wider engagement with the public still has to occur between January and April before the strategy is taken back to cabinet for final approval,” Mafuna said.

The two organisations also said the possible extension of the subsidy for liquid biofuels could benefit established producers, to the exclusion of small-scale farmers.

“An independent strategy that is directed specifically at the small-scale farmer is required to ensure that benefits are spread across the sectors.

“The roll-out of an industrial biofuels strategy should be preceded by full lifecycle analysis of current industrial farming methods, with a view to making them less energy intensive, less water inefficient and less polluting,” said Annie Sugrue of Cures. Seccp co-ordinator Richard Worthington said “a well-informed” biofuels strategy could reduce poverty, unemployment and greenhouse gas emissions.

Additional information:
News date: 12/12/2006

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