The sustainability of the South African economy and our efforts at creating new opportunities for our citizens rely on the sound management of our natural resources for both the current and future generations.
South Africa is blessed with rich resources and unique biodiversity. Our environment is however under significant pressure from a growing economy and a rapidly increasing population, as well as climate change and water scarcity. We are ranked 128th out of 132 countries on the international Environmental Performance Index. The index notes serious concerns about South Africa’s deteriorating air and water quality, biodiversity, the functioning of ecosystems, and the state of fisheries. Unless a truly integrated approach to environmental management is entrenched across all spheres of the state and society there is unlikely to be any improvement in the key environmental measurables.
Protection of the environment goes far beyond conservation. The maintenance of environmental quality, most particularly in the reduction of water, air and soil pollution, is critical for human and eco- system health. The DA’s vision of an opportunity society in which citizens have the resources, power and opportunity to develop themselves and pursue their own objectives requires a healthy and productive population. Citizens afflicted by poor health due to living in degraded environments are less likely to be able to seize opportunities and reach their full potential, and they place a heavy burden on the health-care system. A healthy environment, most notably the availability of ample clean water, clean energy and clean air, is critical for winning the fight against the burden of disease.
Still further, a healthy environment is essential for citizens to seize opportunities to create sustainable livelihoods. A degraded environment not only minimises these opportunities, it actively works against any attempts to alleviate the plight of the most vulnerable people in society.
Opportunities for new jobs in the ‘green economy’ are numerous provided an enabling environment is created. An effective response to climate change is required in order for South Africa to contribute to the global effort to stabilise the climate system and to make our country more resilient to climate change. But the response to climate change also offers the opportunity for the development and introduction of new technologies, the stimulation of demand for new products, and the associated creation of new jobs.
The DA’s vision of a society for all the people resonates in its response to environmental, water, mineral resources and fisheries management. Our history of forced human migration, settlement and bloody conflict has left a legacy of disturbance. In many cases the most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens have been forced to live in the most degraded environments. Access to leisure opportunities, most notably in our protected areas and along our coastline, has also been largely inaccessibly to a significant portion of our population. The DA will thus pursue policies that break down barriers that deny South Africans the use and enjoyment of our environment. All South Africans must be able to experience and take pride in our unique history and environment.
Our environment has intrinsic value that requires protection. Its numerous ecosystems provide human society with valuable and free essential services, including the limited amelioration of our pollution and various products that can be used in innovation and wealth creation. Protection of the environment from an economic point of view is the joint responsibility of the state and society. The economy cannot alone be expected to generate the income required to protect the environment. A true understanding of eco-system valuation means that the state has an important role to play in the enforcement of environmental laws. The spirit of responsible, custodial care should be the basic philosophy of the state. Citizens should be empowered to be active and informed in environmental decision-making and to understand the individual roles that they can play as responsible and ethical players in the economy, most particularly regarding consumer choices and waste minimisation.
The DA’s approach to environmental management and the use of our natural resources recognises the intrinsic value of our environment whilst being informed by a vision of a prosperous law-abiding society with a sensibly regulated market economy, an educated and healthy population, and an adequate safety net for the poor.