Climate change has become one of the most important challenges facing the future of the world today and these changes are becoming increasingly evident and more pronounced in the developing world.
According to the Innovation Fund, an instrument of the Department of Science & Technology, technological innovation is a pivotal solution and South Africans have the necessary inventiveness, scientific and technological ability to mitigate that change at a local and indeed, at global level.
Acting executive director of the Innovation Fund, McLean Sibanda, comments: "The threat posed by climate change is very real. It is not something that will impact us tomorrow; it is impacting us today. The South African National Climate Change Response Strategy has highlighted our specific vulnerabilities.
"However, South Africa is proving its mettle as a nation of innovators, a nation that sees this threat as an opportunity. The projects in our latest annual report highlight some of the technologies that will promote quality of life, make a positive impact on our ecosystem and contribute to South Africa's global competitiveness."
The South African National Climate Change Response Strategy states: "There is now more confidence that global climate change is a threat to sustainable development, especially in developing countries, and could undermine global poverty alleviation efforts and have severe implications for food security, clean water, energy supply, environmental health and human settlements."
Sibanda explains that the Innovation Fund approved and invested in eight projects in 2007/8. This has resulted in a total funding of R80,8-million in the financial year 2007/8. Three of these projects will contribute significantly to protecting the ecosystem, reducing green house gas (GHG) emissions and improving the South Africa's global competitiveness.
One of these projects, the Industrial Plant Simulator, reduces the level of GHGs released into the atmosphere by making electricity power stations more efficient.
Another, Aircraft Laser Paint Stripping, uses laser technology to reduce the amount of environmentally harmful chemicals that are used in the stripping of paint during the inspection and maintenance of aircrafts.
The flagship project, Optimal Energy, is an investment into the development of Joule, South Africa's first fully battery-operated multi-purpose vehicle which is bound to shake up the South African and global motor industry while reducing the emission of GHGs even when using South African Eskom generated electricity.
The impact of these local innovations gains yet more significance when reviewed in conjunction with the United Nation's advisory body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Reports, which observes that emissions of GHGs due to "human activities have grown since pre-industrial times, with an increase of 70%. [and] the largest growth in GHG emissions.has come from energy supply, transport and industry." The increase in particular of carbon dioxide, an important anthropogenic GHG has been "due primarily to fossil fuel use," according to the IPCC.
"The Innovation Fund remains steadfast in its belief in the inventiveness of South Africans, our ability to invent technologies and apply them to solve real life problems," says Sibanda. "The Innovation Fund's investments projects are demonstrative of this technological inventiveness which is key in dealing with the global challenge of climate change and sustainability."