Speech by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, Dr Pieter Mulder: Greening of the nation, Fountains Valley, Pretoria
2 Jun 2010
The Executive Mayor of the Tshwane Metro, Dr Gwen Ramokgopa
Representatives of South African Football Association and the
Local Organising Committee
Representatives of the SABC
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a great honour for us as South Africans to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup and to receive the world in our beautiful country. It is an undisputed fact that our planet together with all of us are in serious trouble as a result of global warming.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the earth’s temperature will increase by 5,8 degrees Celsius over the next hundred years. This will have detrimental consequences. Some scientists say that we are already beyond the point of salvaging this situation.
These climate changes bring about unusual weather, droughts, floods, melting of the permanent ice of the north and south poles as well as rising ocean levels. All this is the result of air pollution caused by human activities. One of the main pollutants responsible for this phenomenon is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. Every year approximately 25 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere and every year the unavoidable greenhouse effect becomes more of a tangible reality.
Throughout the world, major sports events like the Soccer World Cup are being recognised as having a global environmental impact. Large numbers of people travel to and from these events, spend money, consume resources and stimulate local economies. But the impact on the environment must also be considered when planning and organising such events.
We have a responsibility towards coming generations to translate these concerns into responsible action and to so doing minimise and mitigate the impact of our economic activities on the environment.
The 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup offers South Africa a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the world its commitment to responsible environmental management, whilst improving the living environment and livelihoods of all South Africans. The event offers opportunities to showcase how we can respond to the challenges facing our region and our planet and what each of us can do differently. Equally greening programmes developed in the context of the 2010 World Cup, will build South Africa‘s experience in hosting events in environmentally responsible ways, and contribute to future expanded greening programmes across the country.
The 2010 FIFA World Cup will undoubtedly be a spectacular football event. In line with the main objective of hosting a green event the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries together with other role-players are making a significant contribution through tree planting and greening of residential and public viewing areas.
The department, as the custodian of the greening function, launched the million trees programme in 2007. The main aim is to ensure the planting of at least a million trees annually in line with the United Nations Plant a Billion Trees for the Planet campaign.
As we will be hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup tournament which starts in nine days from today, we have to ensure that we still care for the environment. To achieve this purpose and ensure that we host a green event, the department has assisted host cities with the development of greening plans, which if implemented fully, together with other mitigation measures, will provide sinks that will minimise the excessive accumulation of carbon dioxide gasses. Implementation of the greening plans will not only help with issues of climate change, but will beautify our cities and towns.
Trees are especially valuable because they produce wood, in which large quantities of carbon is locked up for many years.
Achim Steiner, United Nations Environmental Programmes (UNEP) Executive Director said, “Forests are natural and economically important ‘sinks’, sequestrating carbon from the atmosphere and locking it away in trunks and branches. Globally, forest cover is at least one-third less than what it once was. It is time to reverse the trends, it is time to act."
To put this into perspective; one hectare of forest growing at the rate of producing 10 cubic metres (m3) of wood per year will be removing carbon to the equivalent of 14 million cubic metres (m3) of air. One can visualise this as a column of air 1,4 kilometre deep over an area of forest the size of two soccer fields. However, trees do not all grow equally fast, and all forests are not equally productive as carbon sinks. Trees in urban environments and commercial forestry plantations are generally quite fast growing and are therefore active carbon sinks.
The planting of the 32 trees at George Storrar road was symbolic to honour the countries that will participate in the World Cup Soccer tournament. In addition the trees are symbolic to the initiatives taken by the country to ensure a carbon neutral event and to take the opportunity to green and beautify our cities and towns. Today as we celebrate World Environment Day, 500 fruit and indigenous trees have been planted in Hammanskraal in the public viewing area as well as in the residential areas. The planted trees will go a long way to mitigate against environmental hazards created by pollutants in the atmosphere.
Programme director, the simple rule here is that there is no other planet we can call home; if our landscape is bare, we must plant trees; if our world has too much carbon emissions, we must plant more trees; and in response to the current global warming we must increase our efforts two-three fold and plant many more trees until intensifying our contribution in mitigating against climate change.
To date the department, together with the municipality have planted an estimated 2250 trees in the Tshwane Metropolitan area as part of initiatives associated with the greening for the 2010 World Cup. This partnership, which was initiated by the department in conjunction with the Department of Water Affairs and the SABC, has already resulted in the planting of 5 000 trees. The focus has been on the greening of public viewing areas as well as residential areas.
Programme director, I would like to assure you that these initiatives will not end with today‘s event, or after the World Cup Soccer tournament. The department will still be partnering with Pretoria on the green goal initiative. Several spots for tree planting have been identified to plant a number of trees to be determined by the number of goals scored during the tournament. In addition, September is just around the corner and from one to seven South Africans will be celebrating Arbour Week. This will be an opportunity to create awareness about the importance and value of trees in our lives, while also launching various greening programmes and projects that will contribute to environmental conservation and development of our country.
We should not limit these programmes to single events hosted by government departments and municipalities. We should all make conscious lifestyle adjustments in order to save our planet. Like a good squad, this should take team work.
We should head the words of one football player who said, “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”
A big part of the solution to the climate change problem is using our current energy resources wisely. The saying, “The world has enough for everybody’s need, but not for everybody’s greed,” comes to mind.
For example the energy from the sun which reaches the earth is approximately one kilowatt per square metre daily. That is 2 850 times more energy than the world currently require. The sun gives us enough energy each day to be sustained for eight years. Unfortunately we currently utilise less than one percent of that energy. We have to make renewable energy projects a priority in South Africa.
The department also has a responsibility to protect commercial farmers and so doing contribute to rural development and decrease the influx of people to our cities and towns as a result of a lack of job opportunities in our rural areas. The growth of our cities contributes to the increased pressure on the environment. We must counter this with effective rural development and support for our commercial farmers. These kinds of greening events must also create a culture or lifestyle of caring for the environment and planting trees in our urban and rural areas.
Today as we celebrate the 2010 Greening Initiative, we will also be distributing seed to encourage communities to start backyard gardens and produce vegetables that are nutritious and healthy for their well being.
Programme director, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the participation of the representatives of the countries that participated in this event, Bafana Bafana and the teams that felt that it was important to include in their busy schedule an initiative that will go a long way to create awareness for environmental conservation and development.
I would also like to thank the officials who worked very hard in organising this event and also a special word of thanks to the sponsors who made this event possible.
With this occasion, we echo the words of the football world that: “A champion is someone who does not settle for that day's practice, that day's competition, that day's performance. They are always striving to be better. They don't live in the past”
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
2 June 2010
Source: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (http://www.daff.gov.za)
Issued by: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
2 Jun 2010
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