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Flanders, UNIDO announce joint project to accelerate South Africa’s transition to green economy

By Fatima Saka

United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Flemish Government has committed 2.4 million Euro (approx. R41m) to a project aiming to strengthen the adaptation capacity for a green and resilient economy in South Africa.

The project was designed in consultation with national counterparts in South Africa, including the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (the dtic), as well as industry-facing national agencies such as the National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). The funding was approved in response to a proposal by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The project focused on the private sector, including individual enterprises as well as sectoral organizations and selected Special Economic Zones, and will address the barriers that are currently hampering an accelerated adoption of measures and technologies on climate adaptation.

In addition, the practice will entail building capacity to adapt, renew, re-organize and develop desirable pathways and more sustainable practices to help industries better prepare for future climate change impacts.

The implementation is in collaboration with national entities of key government departments, including the NCPC-SA and the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA).

The initiatives includes technology upgrades in pilot enterprises to showcase the benefits of a climate-resilience approach in an industrial context, nurturing green innovation potential, and building capacity to mainstream climate action and strengthen the ability to develop and finance resilient capital investment projects in the green economy. Strategic partnerships with academia, industry and umbrella organizations will ensure that climate-resilient approaches are sustained and scaled up across the economy.

Speaking, Geraldine Reymenants, General Representative of Flanders in South Africa, stated that a clear window of opportunity exists to accelerate the shift to a domestic green economy as the country embarks on a transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy.

“It is no longer a question if companies should adapt to climate change, but rather how companies can transition to a green and inclusive economy”, she said. “This means that climate change and environmentally friendly practices should be incorporated in business plans. In partnership with UNIDO, the SA National Cleaner Production Centre and the Technology Innovation Agency, we want to assist the private sector in making the required transition and in capitalizing on the opportunities that are emerging in the green economy.”

She emphasised that the project is strongly aligned with South Africa’s national priorities, and will strengthen and complement the relevant policy initiatives and activities.

“South Africa also considers the adaptation component of its Nationally Determined Contribution to be an important contributor to the global response to climate change, and developed various strategic documents to support its vision of a low-emission and climate-resilient development pathway,” she said.

The UNIDO Representative and Head of UNIDO’s Regional Office for Southern Africa, Khaled El Mekwad, said the project was the result of positive engagements between UNIDO and the Delegation of Flanders in Southern Africa, and UNIDO’s extensive involvement in the green economy in South Africa and the region.

“Examples include the Global Eco-Industrial Parks Programme, the award-winning Industrial Energy Efficiency Project, the Low-carbon Transport Project, and the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme”, he said.

He further commended the Government of Flanders for its commitment to helping South Africa accelerate its transition to a green economy. “This is the first UNIDO project funded by the Government of Flanders in Africa, and will result in a smaller carbon footprint by industry, greater climate consistency, and the creation of a vibrant and inclusive job market in South Africa. It is also a concrete example of inclusive and sustainable industrial development, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda,” he concluded.

Also, Rana Ghoneim, Chief of the Energy Systems and Infrastructure Division at UNIDO’s Head Office in Vienna, stated that UNIDO will draw from its previous project experience in South Africa to scale up and sustain the project outcomes in the country as well as aspects that are regarded as critical by both the Government of Flanders and UNIDO. “We will build on and expand our partnerships with strategic stakeholders, including with the private and academic sectors, under the guidance of the relevant government stakeholders,” she explained.

She further said that UNIDO has recently been accredited to the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund. “Successful adaptation activities to date include ecosystem-based adaptation, off-grid renewable energy supply, climate-proofing of infrastructure and the water-energy-food nexus.”

The project will run over three years, and implementation is expected to commence by the second quarter of this year.

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