The last few years have seen a significant uptick in research interest and policy concern over the sustainability of the development path we are on. For example there is a growing awareness of the probable development impacts of climate change and variability (Gauteng is likely to see increased disaster vulnerability and growing water scarcity in the years ahead).
GCRO has done considerable work in this area over the years. Important outputs include the 2011 Green Strategic Programme; the 2013 State of Green Infrastructure Report; a Green Infrastructure CityLab; and an occasional paper on the Governance of Acid Mine Drainage.
Much of this work stems from an early project in 2009 around how cities and regions in other parts of the world were responding to the global financial crisis, where it became clear that green jobs and green industry support were becoming a conscious economic development strategy for many regions. From that early thinking we have developed the line of argument that the GCR faces a future crisis (economic, social and otherwise) unless it can find ways to limit unsustainable use of resources, and depart from past paths of externalising costs to future generations. Routinely externalising environmental costs to other places and to future generations will rebound on our economy as suffocating constraints at unexpected moments (witness South Africa’s now dramatically rising costs of electricity and water and the pressing matter of acid-mine drainage). By contrast a society that invests wisely in maintaining green assets and enhancing ecological systems services, and that proactively exploits opportunities in the production of green goods and services, may turn the sustainability challenge into a ‘competitive advantage’. What the Gauteng City-Region needs is a full sustainability transition, led by government, across society and the economy. Our research in this area supports this set of propositions. It focuses on the difficult political economy choices entailed in a move to greater sustainability; prospects for infrastructure transitions; resource security challenges; green infrastructure; and the green economy.