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South African youth from various formations have called on the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, to ensure that economic recovery from Covid-19 is just, green, inclusive and youth and gender-responsive.

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Barbara Creecy, led a SANParks initiative to distribute food parcels and water tanks to vulnerable communities bordering the Kruger National Park in both Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Photo: Facebook.

Creecy today hosted a virtual Youth Environment and Sustainability Dialogue, where young South Africans presented a wide range of ideas and suggestions on how to rebuild the economy and society post COVID-19. The virtual dialogue forms part of the Government’s Youth Month programme themed: “Youth Power: Growing South Africa together during the period of Covid-19.”

Yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa challenged young South Africans to craft and design programmes to enable the country to reach its developmental goals and address the unemployment crisis.

“In the main our engagement with our young people was in response to President Ramaphosa’s clarion call to ensure that young activists and innovators in the environmental sector contribute to shaping our thinking around our social and economic recovery from Covid-19,” said Creecy.

More than 100 youth from across South Africa took part in the virtual dialogue, during which they expressed concern about the dire economic impact of COVID-19 and its effect on achieving the goals set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Among the suggestions presented to the her by youth representing 15 organisations was a green recovery mechanism that is gender- and youth-responsive. The presentation asked for the country’s green recovery strategy to include more rapid introduction of renewable energy, greener public transportation and the upscaling of the circular economy to better manage waste.

Speakers stressed that climate change be addressed with greater urgency by all levels and sectors of government. Concern was also expressed for vulnerable community members including waste recyclers who play a significant role in waste diversion from landfills but work under dangerous and insanitary conditions.

Many speakers asked for greater access to financing to enable them to implement ideas they have to create a more environmentally friendly economy and society.  A number of young entrepreneurs spoke of their willingness to develop innovative solutions to create new economic opportunities in a more climate resilient and sustainable economic path.

In response to the call for more support for young innovators and entrepreneurs, Minister Creecy announced that  the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries has set aside a R1 million to support the development of innovative youth-led projects tackling the issues of climate change, waste management and biodiversity loss.

Creecy indicated that applications for this funding will be open for two months from 1 July until the end of August 2020. Adjudication by an independent panel is expected to take place in September and October. Announcement of the selected projects will be made in November. A total of 10 projects will be funded to the tune of R100,000 each.