A sham project to make the last G8 summit carbon neutral by installing mains electricity in 2000 South African homes, underlines how remote the UK and other governments are from the realities of environmentally sound living.
The scheme, pioneered by Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, to make homes in the township of Kuyasa, near Cape Town energy-efficient, after first connecting them to the grid, is on the brink of collapse. It faces a 1m funding shortfall. Organisers now admit that even if they can plug the gap, it will not meet the pledge until 2029 at the earliest.
Because it was the first United Nations-certified gold standard project in the world, Britain pledged 100,000 to pay for credits for the 10,000 tons of carbon that are being saved, reported the London Sunday Times. To date, however, none of the money has been spent. Instead, organisers have struggled to find the 35m rand (2.5m) needed to implement the measures. They have until the end of February to find a further 13.5m rand or risk the collapse of the project.
It has also emerged that the figure for carbon savings applies only over the 21-year life of the project. In the short term, it will actually increase carbon consumption, as residents are given electricity for the first time.
Yet funding has only been allocated to setting up the scheme and not towards the cost of maintaining the solar heaters and replacing energy-efficient bulbs.
A pilot project involving 10 houses was well received by residents.
Wazana Qwili, 83, is delighted with his new, energy-efficient house. I’m very lucky, he said. There are over 2,000 homes in Kuyasa that don’t have a geyser or hot water shower.
His solar water heater, however, is equipped with a back-up powered by mains electricity. He now has a monthly electricity bill of 20 rand. Although he was pleased to have the heating, he said: It gets harder to pay for it every month, but what can I do?
The revelations will embarrass the UK government, which has been warned by Sir Nicholas Stern, the economist and Treasury adviser, that Britain must act now to avoid an ecological disaster.
Last week ministers at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced plans for a gold standard for offsetting schemes to help fight climate change. But Defra’s own flagship scheme is in disarray. The G8 summit, held in July 2005, generated more than 4,000 tonnes of CO2 in transport and events.
Margaret Beckett, then environment secretary, said it would be the most sustainable G8 summit ever.
She announced plans to offset the emissions over two years with an energy-saving project in Kuyasa, a township in Cape Town. It involves installing solar water heaters, low-energy light-bulbs and ceiling insulation in more than 2,000 homes.
Cape Town council, which is leading the project, believes reduced use of electricity will cut carbon dioxide output by a total of 6,500 tonnes a year.
Defra admitted it would take 21 years to reap the full potential benefits, but attempted to distance the government from the programme.
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