South Africa regards moving to the "green economy" as something that will take time.
"We see the transition into the green economy – not jumping into the green economy – as a process," affirmed Water Affairs and Environment Minister Edna Molewa at a media briefing in Pretoria on Monday.
"We understand the green economy to be a means to implement sustainable development, not as a replacement for sustainable development."
The transition to the green economy will, at times, require innovations and new technologies, she said.
"It will probably be a little expensive right at the beginning. Once the [new green economy] infrastructure is in place, the cost will be drastically reduced. We will roll out this infrastructure and realise some savings as we go along."
Molewa was briefing the media on the South African government's views regarding the outcomes of the United Nations (UN) Conference on Sustainable Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 20 to June 22 and known as Rio+20 for short. (The conference was held 20 years after the original UN Conference on Sustainable Development, which was also held in Rio de Janeiro. The Rio+10 conference was held in Johannesburg in 2002.)
"The South African government actually viewed this Rio+20 conference to be a critically important milestone in the global sustainable development regime," she stated, "especially on elements that included an agreement on the need to establish a Sustainable Development Council at the [UN] General Assembly level and to upgrade the United Nations Environment Programme to become the authoritative voice on environmental governance with the view to promote coherence in the coordination of the environmental leg of sustainable development."
It was agreed to set up a process to develop a number of sustainable development goals, which will be congruent with the post-2015 agenda for development.
"The whole notion of sustainable development is linked to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)," she assured. "[The aim is] to eradicate poverty. The MDGs are still intact." The sustainable development goals will incorporate the MDGs, not replace them.
Another key decision pleasing to South Africa is the agreement to develop a sustainable development finance mechanism. Because of the financial crisis in Europe, South Africa is working with other countries and institutions to develop alternative sources of financing for sustainable economic development. These institutions include the Development Bank of Southern Africa, Brazil's National Economic and Social Development Bank, the Indian development bank, the World Bank and commercial banks.
Furthermore, the conference recognised the need to create a "multinational instrument" to manage marine biodiversity outside territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.
"South Africa was the lead voice in calling for the recognition of the strategic role played by marine resources for sustainable development," affirmed Molewa. "We were actually asked to chair this aspect [of the talks]."
Summing up, she stated that "the government is proud to announce that the outcomes of the Rio+20 conference are in line with national development interests".