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Green Drinks 2017: celebrating eco-transport

October 2017 was Transport Month in South Africa. In line with the occasion, the recent Green Drinks Cape Town event held on 28th September at GreenCape, highlighted and celebrated all modes of eco transport – from bicycles and electric scooters to carpooling and using your feet.

Like many other countries in the world, the transport sector in South Africa has a high carbon footprint and is, therefore, a key driver of climate change. “Transport in South Africa consumes the most energy of all sectors,” explained Khanyiselo Kumalo, Sustainable Transport Analyst at GreenCape, who kicked off our special EcoMobility Green Drinks event. The gathering took place a month ago at the offices of GreenCape, which was established to promote the development of the green economy in the Western Cape.Kumalo added 40% of the Rainbow Nation’s emissions are due to from how people, goods, and products travel from A to B. Personal transport is a key culprit. “54% of commuters use their own cars for regular travel,” he said, noting that besides emissions this causes traffic jams.

Driving change with EcoMobility

This is where EcoMobility comes in, a term used to describe travel through integrated, socially inclusive, and environmentally friendly options. This includes walking, cycling, public transport and other climate-friendly innovative ways of moving around including electric forms of transport.
“Our electric scooters are clean, green, and cost-effective,” said Andy Le May, Founder and CEO Ewizz Electric Scooters, in his presentation. “They produce zero emissions and need zero petrol and zero oil. Electrics are our inevitable transportation future.”

Fighting traffic jams and emissions

Tech entrepreneur Chris Megan added that to reduce transport-related emissions and traffic jams, we also need to relook the way we are using our personal cars. “Cape Town has the worst congested roads in South Africa,” he said, noting that the Mother City’s CBD has to absorb 260,000 cars every day.

That is why he developed uGoMyWay, a carpooling and lift-sharing application that connects drivers and passengers to share rides and associated costs. Megan: “The only sustainable solution to emissions and congestion is to have significantly fewer private vehicles on our road.”

Fewer cars, better streets

Marcela Guerrero Casas said she agreed that carpooling is a step in the right direction. However, the best way to reduce emissions and congestion is for people to walk or cycle where they can. Her social venture Open Streets Cape Town aims to sensitize Capetonians into that direction by changing how they use, perceive and experience the streets around them.

The organisation does this by regularly closing off parts of the Cape Town for motorised vehicles, transforming them into open spaces for pedestrians. “We believe streets should enable safer and more cohesive communities, provide platforms for creative expression of local cultures and values, serve as places for recreation and social interaction, and provide choice in how we move around the city,” Guerro Casas said. “By embracing the concept of Open Streets Cape Town, all of us can create shared places that embody respect for all and help bridge the social and spatial divides of our city.”

More talks followed, including a presentation by David Parry-Davies, editor of Enviropedia magazine, about the 2018 Eco-Logic Awards and a snapshot on the economics of decarbonising transport in South Africa by Tara Caetano, Energy Economist at the University of Cape Town.

According to Franz Rentel, one of the Organisers of Green Drinks Cape Town and director of Climate Neutral Group in South Africa, The Special edition of Green Drinks was a huge success.  “Some of the talks were true eye-openers,” he said, adding that the fact that the event was well-attended can be seen a great sign. “We had people from all walks of life and all industries attending. It shows that the concept of EcoMobility, in a world that is dominated by fossil fuels, is becoming an increasingly important priority. This is a fantastic step forward!”

Words: Miriam Mannak, Social Media and Content / Climate Neutral Group in South Africa, 24 October 2017

ABOUT GREEN DRINKS CAPE TOWN: Green Drinks is part of the Green Drinks International movement. Now active in 600 cities worldwide as a casual, unstructured event that brings together environmentally-minded Capetonians for a relaxed, agenda-free evening of networking and great conversations. Whether you have been working in the environmental and sustainability fields for a while or are a newcomer: this is your chance to meet like-minded people who are working for NGOs, government and business as well as academia and researchers to share information and make new friends. Although Green Drinks Cape Town aims to be an organic and casual event, it tends to lead to new synergies of ideas and new business connections. Attending the event could even lead to landing your new dream job! 

 Next Green Drinks: 26 October at Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar, Cape Town CBD. Bring your friends, thoughts and ideas: everyone is welcome!

Emissions offsetting: closing the main carbon tap of your business

By Danielle de Bruin, Programme Manager Mobility / Climate Neutral Group in The Netherlands

A car leasing company called us recently with a query around sustainability and transport. “We are not offsetting emissions because we think prevention is better” was one of the statements. Upon concluding our telephone conversation, during which we agreed on many points, one issue lingered on.

Prevention is better than offsetting: is that true? To find an answer, we will need to look at two things:

1. Can companies prevent climate change just by reducing their carbon emissions?

The answer is no. Reducing emissions is not enough. Of course, every little bit helps and lowering your overall emissions from your fuel consumption and energy use is something you should definitely do. This is however not where it ends.

After all, if your kitchen is flooding because you have left the tap open, you must close the tap and mop the floor. By reducing your company’s fuel and energy consumption, thus carbon footprint, you are closing your carbon emission tap only a little, say by up to 20%, if you are doing everything right.

The problem is that you can’t ignore the remaining 80%. A transition to electric transport could be a structural solution, but it could take many years before we reach that point. Do we have time to wait for this? I don’t think so. You can’t say: “I am sorry your kitchen is flooded. I will return next month to close the tap.”

2. Is there a difference between reducing emissions and offsetting?

The answer is no. Please allow me to explain why.

In the Netherlands, our infrastructure is largely based on fossil fuels. We fill up our cars with petrol and diesel and the bulk of our electricity is generated from coal. We all know how much effort it takes to change this: coal plants aren’t after all easily closed. In essence, we are all on the fossil fuel highway together, whilst making hairpin bends towards a more sustainable economy. Meanwhile, dozens of emerging markets around the world are developing rapidly, and are embarking on a similar path as the developed world a good few years ago. These countries will have to make the same hairpin bends in 20 years’ time to get rid their fossil fuels.

What is offsetting all about?

Offsetting means investing in sustainable energy projects in countries which are developing at a fast pace to prevent reliance on fossil fuels. One can, for instance, invest in wind turbines in India. With this, you are investing in clean, sustainable electricity grids from the word go – preventing emerging economies from becoming dependent on fossil fuels.

In other words, does offsetting equal reduction?

The answer is: yes. Offsetting is much more than closing the tap or mopping the floor. Offsetting your emissions means you are aware of the fact that greenhouse gases originate from several taps and that you have to close the largest, not just the most obvious. We essentially all benefit from offsetting.

The following day, I called the lease company and explained the above. The result? The firm in question is now one of our clean transport ambassadors in The Netherlands, and it is persuading their clients to offset their emissions. What about you?

The above is applicable to South Africa. Please contact us to see how your company can start reducing and offsetting its carbon emissions.