The South Africa Bio-energy Atlas, launched in Pretoria on Friday, will allow the country to identify opportunities for sustainable bio-energy and be able to achieve much more in terms of developing a 'green' economy. This was affirmed by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor in her keynote address at the launch.
"What the Bio-energy Atlas shows is that we have much higher potential for bio-energy than we ever thought," she pointed out. "The green economy allows great opportunities." These are, however, largely untapped at the moment, especially in South Africa and Africa. "We need to get off the starting line."
The atlas is a data source and a decision support tool. It will help South Africa to identify the impact of climate change on the country. The aim is to ensure that the country is not a victim of climate change but rather is a contributor to sustainable development. In particular, it will contribute to the provision of sustainable renewable energy.
"One of the areas in which we need to do a lot of work in, is energy security," she noted. This is a high priority for both the government and the scientific community. This covers biomass as well as renewable energies such as solar, for example.
South Africa now has a bio-economy strategy. It is one of less than 30 countries in the world that have such strategies. Pandor affirmed that the country had to become a leader in adapting to, and mitigating the effects of, climate change.
The development of the atlas is the result of the activities of the South African Earth Observation Network (SAEON), which receives its core funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and has a mandate to undertake environmental research. The DST commissioned SAEON and its colleagues and partners to produce the Bio-energy Atlas.
"South African scientists are making critical contributions to global work," highlighted Pandor. "We are, as a science community in South Africa, in this [global change] area, active in various fields. Our scientists count among the best in these fields. What I am saying is confirmed by the most recent report on research and innovation by the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development]." South African environmental research is recognised as being among the best in the world.