African Green Campus Initiative launched

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Cape Town - University and college campuses that address climate challenge will better serve students and help create a thriving and ethical society, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said at the launch of the African Green Campus Initiative on Saturday.

Launching the initiative, which aims to promote climate change interventions at college and university campuses, Nzimande called on leaders of colleges and universities to sign the Climate Change Commitment Pledge, which would help build on the legacy of last year's COP17.

Africa, he said, had to take leadership in climate change as he believed the developed nations weren't doing enough to address this global problem.

Nzimande's department is supporting the initiative, which was set up and funded by the Southern Africa chapter of the Association of College and University Housing Officers International (Acuho-I-Sac) in collaboration with African Compass and PD Naidoo and Associates, and is also being sponsored by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

Nzimande said colleges and universities would help provide students with the know-how and skills needed to address climate change and allow them to benefit in the economic opportunities that arise from the solutions they help develop.

The department will support the initiative by urging students to use bicycles and buses; retro-fitting buildings and creating green buildings; ensuring universities procure green products and services; structuring curricula to include more focus on sustainability; reducing resource usage by recycling and running resource usage audits.

Nzimande said environmental education was very important, adding that the department was looking at introducing a foundation programme through FET colleges to help particularly those with poor maths and science marks and that this should also include environmental studies.

He said environmental science as a discipline at university also needed to be strengthened.

Some universities such as UCT have already embarked on the initiative - with its own Green Campus Initiative having been started in 2007 by Susan Botha.

Nzimande said the UCT initiative was started in the university's botany department but soon grew to a campus-wide one, with projects in recycling including waste at residences, the organisation's first UCT Green Week and the use of carpooling to cut down on emissions.

"This initiative at UCT is an example of what can be done when there is energetic leadership and commitment," said Nzimande, adding that he wanted to see similar projects replicated at other universities.

He conceded that other initiatives such as energy efficient buildings were more difficult to attain, but stressed that his department was committed to supporting cost-effective green infrastructure developments.

His department was currently looking at proposals for infrastructure funding at universities for the current and coming financial years, and green buildings is one of the key criteria in the approval of new projects.

Regional workshops on the initiative have so far been held at three campuses - Tshwane University of Technology, UCT and the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University(NMMU).

Three more workshops are expected to be held - at the University of Limpopo this Saturday, at the Durban University of Technology on May 12 and at University of Free State on May 19.

Richard Parker, an ambassador of the African Green Campus Initiative, said students were often more keen on where the next party was or passing their courses than on going green, but pointed out that in most instances, there was genuine support and interest in green initiatives once his organisation interacted with students.

African Green Campus Initiative national committee member Sammy Ellie, from NMMU, said students had indicated in a survey he conducted at the university that they would participate more in green initiatives if there were incentives and competitions in place.

NMMU students had been running various green initiatives on waste management and had also signed a green pledge, Ellie said.

He singled out the assistance the university provided to Eastern Cape farmers to grow Spekboom which, once planted, can then be traded for carbon credits.