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Address by President Jacob Zuma on the Occasion of the Official Launch of Environment House, the Green Headquarters of the Department of Environmental Affairs, Pretoria

17 October 2014

Ministers
Directors-General
CEOs of State-owned companies,
Distinguished guests
Staff of the Department of Environmental Affairs,

I am delighted to have been given an opportunity and honor to launch the green headquarters of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). 

This is important for me as it is not every day that the President of the Republic gets to visit a Department and to meet staff!

Ladies and gentlemen

The construction of Environment House signals a new era for the construction industry.

We welcome the fact that the building has received a 6 Green Star SA rating from the independent Green Building Council of South Africa.

It is correct that the headquarters of the Department of Environmental Affairs became the first to win this Green award. You will now lead by example.

Some of the areas that the building was awarded the 6 Green Star rating for includes efficient energy consumption and use of environmentally friendly materials.

They also include unique and precedent-setting energy consumption mechanism, environmentally friendly transportation modes, efficient and state of the art water saving devices, on-site grey-water treatment works, emissions reduction systems and solar energy innovation systems.

Ladies and gentlemen,

South Africa has relatively high emissions for a developing country, and we should make the most of every opportunity to change this trajectory, hence we have since developed the National Climate Change Response Policy.

With the opening of this building today, we are showing a bold commitment to lower emissions as well as our commitment to the Green Economy.

We are now past the stage of scientists’ debate of questioning whether various weather events since the beginning of the 19th century could be linked to climate change and global warming. 

The International Panel on Climate Change fifth major report of 2013 noted that scientists have increased their certainty of human-induced warming to ninety-five percent.

The world is experiencing incidents of rising global warming.

Ordinary South Africans have been remarking that we are getting less rain, and in fact almost no rain in Gauteng in particular thus far.

We are now faced with the reality of longer spells of dry heat, drought or intense rain.

We are inundated daily with stories pointing to the rates of extinction of animal and plant species.   No rain also means the agricultural sector will suffer.

This situation could give rise to the onset of desertification which further reduces agricultural land whilst at the same time displacing people.

The solution to climate change and global warming problems lies in every sector managing its affairs effectively. 

With this construction, government has already taken a bold step with the twenty-five years public private partnership  investment worth 8 billion rand in this green building. 

To assist all sectors to contribute to the fight against climate change, we have released the National Strategy for Sustainable Development, which is accompanied by strategies such as the New Growth Path and the Green Economy Strategy.

The Green Economy Strategy has eight focus areas, namely green buildings and the built environment, sustainable transport and infrastructure, clean energy and energy efficiency, resource conservation and management, sustainable waste management practices, agriculture, food production and forestry.

Others include water management, sustainable consumption and production and the cross-cutting focus areas that cover research, awareness and skills development.

With every sector catered for in the Strategy, there should be no excuse not to go green. 

If all sectors implement the measures to fight climate change at the same time, together we can build the biggest mitigation buffer against climate change. We can save our country and the world for future generations.

Our economy will become resilient to the possible effects of Climate Change only when we take bold steps like the reduction of emission of carbon dioxide and other gases that lead to increasing global temperatures.

The Department of Environmental Affairs is literally walking the green talk.

It should encourage all other sectors and every South African to go green as much as possible.

We should do so to save our planet and to save our country.

I thank you.

Issued by The Presidency
Pretoria