Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

THE Brics member states have been "far too timid" in their adoption of pro-poor, renewable energy development, Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo said in Durban on Monday.

Speaking at an event to mark the release of a report that claims to debunk perceptions that renewable energy is too expensive, Mr Naidoo said Brics leaders, except China, have so far been slow to adopt renewable energy strategies. For instance, South Africa’s target of reducing carbon-dioxide emissions by 9% by 2030 is "too little too late".

Climate change — including drought, changing weather patterns and falling agricultural productivity — is expected to affect developing countries more than developed ones.

"We are at the boiling point of a convergence of storms" that includes climatic, poverty, employment and financial crises, said Mr Naidoo.

Thembeka Majali, who spoke at a Brics-From-Below countersummit, said there was no way developing countries could "duck and dive" on climate change any longer.

Brazil, India and China are making big strides in renewable energy, but smaller countries such as South Africa have to rely on imported, expensive technology that is protected by overseas patent rights.

"There are concerns about who is going to benefit from renewable energy development … about who is going to have access to it," said Ms Majali, a campaigner involved with the Alternative Information and Development Centre, which is concerned with environmental, social and economic justice.

Mr Naidoo said the last thing Brics leaders should do is to adopt solutions of the type that led to global environmental and financial problems in the first place. He cited as example China which, in spite of its continued reliance on coal for energy, is erecting wind energy turbines at a rate of one every two minutes.

He said South Africa’s plans to build nuclear power stations were risky as the costs had escalated sharply after the Fukushima disaster due to new safety requirements, and a downturn under way in the nuclear industry. No solution existed either for the storage of spent nuclear fuel.

Lucia Ortiz, Friends of the Earth co-ordinator in Brazil, said the free-market response to climate change was to price environmental and resource shortages, so these could be "offset" with money. But this left individuals with no ownership of their future, "even though we in Brazil and South Africa live in a democracy".