Where’s the green investment?

These are dark days, these days post-Rio+20. You only have to read George Monbiot’s recent column in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/25/rio-governments-will-not-save-planet) for an excellent – and deeply distressing – assessment of the situation. As he points out, the world’s governments are, largely, concentrated on defending the machine that is destroying the Earth. But surely we can turn around the destructive political and economic systems that have steered us towards this insanity? In Wednesday’s Cape Times, I read two articles that left me less than hopeful.

First of all, Mark Swilling wrote an op-ed piece critiquing Paul Krugman’s prescriptions in ‘End this recession now’. Among many good points, Swilling points out that the issue is not one of a lack of resources to spend our way out of recession, but rather an ‘investment strike’ – investors are not spending the profits they are making. According to The Economist, the record profits of US companies amounted to over $1 trillion of unspent cash, and Swilling notes that in South Africa there is R500 billion of unspent cash, according to the Finance Minister. This he translates into a call for green investment to address market failures like climate change.

A few pages deeper into the newspaper, on the cover page of Business Report, we learn that Optimal Energy, the company that has been developing South Africa’s first electric car, the Joule, is shutting down, with the loss of at least 60 jobs. The reason? Funding for the project was not forthcoming – a paltry R7 billion. So now even the Industrial Development Corporation and the Technology Innovation Agency will no longer provide further funding for the car.

It reminds me of the local initiative to develop cost-effective photovoltaic panel roofs for solar energy generation that is now being developed in Germany, as no funding could be found for the research and development in South Africa. Another missed opportunity for South Africa to put our money where our mouths are. Fine talk about the Green Economy rings hollow when there is no green investment to fuel it.

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