Speech delivered by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at Inauguration of COP 17 Solar Flagship Plant, Hazelmere, Verulam
04 December 2011The Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Mkhize,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
MECs and councillors,
Soitec CEO and all members of the business community,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are pleased to be able to visit the Hazelmere community today to launch this flagship solar power plant, on the margins of the United Nations climate change conference.
South Africa is the proud host of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dubbed COP 17, which also serves as the Seventh Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol.
The climate change meeting has grabbed the attention and the imagination of the people of KZN and the country as a whole.
We have become aware that people have given the convention the nickname “amaphoyisa awu-17, or 17 cops’’!
This indicates the high level of awareness about this very important massive gathering taking place in our country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are truly proud to host the meeting. Our country has become a popular destination for the world.
We have moved from the 2010 FIFA World Cup, to the IOC Olympic Committee General Assembly and now COP 17, amongst a number of other events.
When we host the world we are reminded of the long journey we have travelled from the dark days of apartheid.
Apartheid and colonial oppression appeared almost impossible to overcome. However, with determination, political clarity, courage and unity, we managed to conquer and ushered in a free, democratic and non-racial South Africa.
Many freedom loving people in the world worked tirelessly with us to achieve the free, non-racial, united and democratic South Africa that we live in today.
As a result of the international solidarity we enjoyed during that period of the struggle against oppression, it is always our pleasure to welcome international guests to our shores.
Our international guests at this event are very special because they have the expertise that we could utilize to our common benefit.
Some of you here represent various companies and countries that pioneered solar technology in its various forms, and you are with us to explore the possibility of scaling up the renewable energy option in our energy mix.
Indeed your efforts will assist us in addressing the green economy value chain to create employment and to alleviate poverty.
This is the path we are taking as a country, and we want you to bring the technologies and financial resources to our shores for investment in the proposed energy initiatives.
Africa has abundant renewable energy sources. We need to harness these in building an inclusive and sustainable green economy.
The world has gathered in Durban because of the realisation that we have to respond urgently and adequately to climate change.
Changing weather patterns are causing extreme drought, wild fires, extreme floods and other unusual occurrences. We have seen drought in Somalia which has caused famine and devastation. Other parts of the world face severe hurricanes and tornados.
Even here in KZN we know that the weather is no longer what it used to be, due to global warming.
If we do nothing, climate change will leave us with uninhabitable waste lands and socio-economic disasters.
We have spoken a great deal about using cleaner sources of energy. Today we reaffirm that commitment and determination to move towards a low carbon economy.
Today we show practical action that demonstrates our seriousness about what we said at COP 15 in Copenhagen in 2009, that we would play our role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
We further indicated at Copenhagen that to commence with this journey and to fulfil our undertaking - we shall need significant financial assistance, technology and skills transfer.
We went further and tabled our state of readiness through the approval of the IRP 2010 which outlines that 42% of all new capacity shall be from Renewable Energy.
This renewable energy project also confirms our view that we cannot separate climate change responses from our goals of pursuing development and poverty eradication.
In this regard, pursuing the green economy must be linked to our overall agenda of pursuing employment creating growth, and inclusive growth that improves the lives of our people.
This solar plant must therefore improve the lives of the people of Hazelmere and surroundings.
For the first time, the neighbouring communities will have access to clean electricity generated from their backyards, and with possibilities of job opportunities.
The partnership between Soitec and Ethekwini Municipality is also designed to include skills development in which the local community will benefit, especially the youth.
We are happy that the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has made a strategic decision to begin positioning itself for renewable energy production in South Africa.
The eThekwini municipality in particular, has identified and is developing large scale renewable energy generation opportunities within its region.
This is truly impressive given that if we do not act and protect the environment, climate change will render the future uninhabitable.
We are ready to forge and support those partnerships that will enable us to embark on the journey to a low carbon economy, while stimulating economic development and creating jobs.
The people of Hazelmere will remember COP 17 as the summit that made them a part of ensuring that future generations inherit a world that is environmentally sustainable and climate resilient.
This is South Africa’s first large scale offering within the Clean Energy Arena. But it is not the last.
We are looking at other possible avenues to improve our emissions profile while creating employment opportunities for our people.
We congratulate all partners in this project. We must move forward together towards an environmentally safer future and economic prosperity.
I thank you.