The minister of environmental affairs, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, has announced the imminent release of South Africa's National Strategy for Sustainable Development (NSSD), which will help the country identify risks and opportunities for sustainable development over the next 20-30 years.
Van Schalkwyk said, "The NSSD will be a powerful tool to be used in addressing priority issues like water quality and quantity; climate change; waste management; soil loss and pollution; food production; and strategic biodiversity management."
This document arises from a combination of the Millennium Development Goals and the actions decided on at the World Summit for Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. It will be released for public comment within two months. The minister was speaking at the World Congress of the International Council for Local Environment Initiatives held in Cape Town at the end of February. This is the first time that the congress has been held in the southern hemisphere.
Van Schalkwyk emphasised the fact that local government has a definite role to play in sustainable development, citing examples ranging from Portland, Oregon which has reduced emissions by 13 percent since 1990 while increasing its economy and populations, to Potchefstroom which has "piloted bicycle lanes, bicycle parks and a range of other transport efficiency measures."
He said, "South Africa's local governments are starting to realise their responsibilities in combating climate change, and in so doing are contributing to sustainable development on a regional and global scale."
He said that Africa was a fitting continent to hold the congress as Africa has an "understanding of doing more with less" and a "personal insight into poverty and underdevelopment – especially the biting realities of the direct consequences of environmental damage for livelihoods." "Throughout Africa it is poverty that remains both the main cause and the main consequence of environmental damage…
We must make the fight to save the environment, and the fight to uplift our people, the same battle."