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SANParks on its way to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and reducing carbon footprint

SANParks landscape ecologists Mmoto Masubelele and Avhavhudzani Phophe led the discussion, which focused on reducing SANPark’s carbon footprint. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

SANParks landscape ecologists Mmoto Masubelele and Avhavhudzani Phophe led the discussion, which focused on reducing SANPark’s carbon footprint. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 25, 2022

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Cape Town - SANParks ecologists want to shift the agency to reduce its carbon footprint, and achieve net-zero GHG (GHG) emissions by 2050.

In a webinar hosted by SANParks and SANParks Honorary Rangers on Wednesday evening, SANParks’ ecologists elaborated on the organisation’s climate change insights.

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This came while the spotlight remained on South Africa’s recent floods, torrential rain and droughts exacerbated by climate change over the years.

SANParks landscape ecologists Mmoto Masubelele and Avhavhudzani Phophe led the discussion, which focused on reducing SANPark’s carbon footprint and mitigating the impact of climate change within the parks.

“As SANParks, we started developing our own strategy to deal with climate change, the ‘climate change preparedness strategy’, which has four main objectives. The first is to understand the implications of climate change across the organisation.

“The second is to adapt to the impact of climate change by maximising the resilience of biodiversity, cultural heritage, socio-economic development, infrastructure, tourism and revenue.

“The third is to mitigate climate change impacts by reducing our carbon footprint as well as finding out how to maximise carbon uptake by ecosystems. Fourth is to help communities and other stakeholders to build resilience by delivering nature-based solutions,” Masubelele said.

He said the big drive to achieve objective three was to get the organisation to transition to green energy.

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“SANParks has put interventions in place to try and understand its energy consumption, waste production and management, as well as water consumption and abstraction.”

Other mitigation measures implemented by SANParks were to increase in-park carbon sequestration by managing and restoring ecosystems, increasing landscape- and seascape-scale carbon sequestration beyond park boundaries and, lastly, assisting business and industry in identifying and adopting market-based incentives to reduce their GHG emissions.

A paper by Masubelele and Phophe stated that nature-based conservation management estates were seen as natural solutions to climate change – hence they were supposed to be immune to harmful GHG emissions.

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However, in their daily operations to protect and conserve biodiversity, the estates caused GHG emissions which came as a significant carbon burden.

Phophe said the objectives of their paper were to quantify SANParks’ carbon emissions profile at the organisation and individual park level, develop recommendations to sustainably reduce carbon emissions, and suggest alternative scenarios that SANParks could follow to achieve netzero energy emissions.

This was done to ensure that SANParks contributed to national targets by reducing their fossil fuel-generated energy consumption by 2% per year until achieving carbon neutrality.

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They found that electricity was the main source of SANParks’ GHG emissions, followed by fuel.

They also discussed the surprising effects that Covid-19 pandemic had on emissions in the national parks – they found that the pandemic had actually curbed carbon emissions in 2020, albeit slightly, due to a number of factors.

“Various intervention policies (confinement, online meetings, limited travelling) slowed the spread of the pandemic but have also significantly reduced energy consumption,” Masubelele said.

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