Business as usual, but at what cost?

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The warming trend is probably bad news for many of Table Mountain Park's unique fynbos plants and other endemic species, which may be struggling to adapt. The province must promote conservation agriculture, drive the development of the green economy.

Cape Town - The Western Cape economy is operating at the expense of the natural environment, and we need a radical shift in the way we do business if we are to stop this degradation, according to a study released on Wednesday.

If we fail to do so, the costs of doing business will increase. The Western Cape government’s State of Environment Report, which provides a snapshot of the natural habitat, says good policies are insufficient to curb environmental degradation.

What is needed is a change in behaviour across sectors, and at the level of individuals, that will move the economy away from “business as usual”.

“It is clear from the results the way we have been doing business is ultimately unsustainable,” the report says.

It measures indicators in different parts of the environment to see whether the quality of the sector is declining, uncertain or improving. It looks at water, biodiversity, land, oceans and coast, air quality, climate change, energy, waste management and human settlements.

“Several of the indicators within these themes show that resource use trends are compromising the long-term existence of natural resources or depleting the basic building blocks for economic development,” the report says.

While most of the natural systems are able to sustain the province’s economic activity and its social development, these socio-economic gains are being made at the expense of our natural resources.

The outlook for all the province’s natural resources is declining. Land and energy are relatively stable, while indicators measuring the health of humans settlements and waste management are “slightly more positive”.

What was needed was for economic growth to be “resource efficient” and based on a low carbon content.

In the built environment obstacles to innovative green urban development and off-grid infrastructure must be removed, there must be large-scale changes to energy and transport systems and renewable energy must be increased.

Wastage of resources must be curbed by increasing the reuse of water and stopping leaks, adopting farming methods that get more produce for the same amount of water, removing regulations that limit the reuse of water, creating incentives for reducing waste, and addressing the high use of energy.

The province must promote conservation agriculture, drive the development of the green economy, and put into action climate change plans to reduce greenhouse gases and to adapt to a hotter world.

“More needs to be done to protect critically sensitive environmental features... A radical shift in the modus operandi is required throughout the province.” - Cape Times

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