THE world is facing a crisis, and in everything we do we should be thinking about what we are doing to fight climate change.
This is how Environment Minister Edna Molewa sees the future. "We are in big trouble. This [climate change] is a crisis situation. This world will run out of food. This world will run out of natural resources and all other resources that we have."
Molewa was speaking at the launch of a pilot project by her department to run and test four Nissan Leaf fully electric cars as part of the government's commitment to reduce South Africa's carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025.
The department would test the car's abilities to see how it best could fit into South Africa's transport system. Greenhouse gas emissions are blamed as the biggest contributor to the rising global temperature, with cars being the third-largest contributor.
But while authorities want up to 50% of the cars on the country's roads to be electric in 10 years' time, this might be too stiff a challenge.
For energy-efficient vehicles to be taken up effectively in the market, there needs to be a high level of government buy-in.
Nissan South Africa managing director Mike Whitfield, who was at the launch, said the introduction of cars like the Leaf relied heavily on private-public partnership. "It [the car] does well in developing markets where there is good government involvement," he said.
In Sweden, drivers of electric cars do not pay for parking, while in Stockholm, they do not pay congestion charges or toll fees.
"In California [in the US] there are dedicated lanes for energy efficient [or high occupancy] vehicles, and in Japan there are decent tax breaks," Toyota South Africa spokesman Leo Kok said.
While the Environment Department's initiative was a step in the right direction, it would take up to 50 years for energy-efficient cars to break into the market.
"For the next 50 years, 99.9% of the cars on our road will still be petrol-driven," Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said.
A fully charged Leaf – charged either for six hours through your home's electricity or 30 minutes via a quick-charge system which would be installed at petrol stations, shopping centres and some public parking areas – could drive up to 660km per charge.