What should South Africa do?


Enhance its NDC to be 1.5 degree aligned by COP26:

South Africa needs more ambitious revised and new policies and measures to support the Paris aligned NDC and LTS in the context of JT, particularly::

  • In the fossil fuel dominated energy sector, including implementation of coal powerplant decomissioning, accelerated RE deployment and the revision of the Integrated Resource Plan; Integrated Energy Plan; as well as a Just Energy Transition strategy.
  • Strengthen and enact the Climate Change Bill to enable implementation of the National Adaptation Plan, build resilience and create a carbon budget aligned with a 1.5°C pathway and that is also able to resolve contradictory regulatory provisions (e.g. the Gas Amendment Bill).
  • Revise other sector policies and measures to align with a JT to a climate-resilient, 1.5°C-aligned pathway, including the Green Transport Strategy; Green and Sustainability Taxonomies; a National Climate Finance Strategy; regenerative agricultural policies; industrial and building energy efficiency policies.
  • As one of only 7 developing country members of the G20 and the only African, South Africa plays an important role in advocating for developing countries’ needs in the the G20 and other multilateral fora, particularly the global financial sector’s climate response, including (a) the alignment of foreign financial flows with a just climate-resilient, 1.5°C-aligned pathway; (b) ending funding of fossil fuel exploration and new production; (c) ensuring that the decarbonisation of investment and lending portfolios of developed countries and International Finance Institutions (IFIs) in developing countries does not result in full-scale disinvestment from those countries.

Build a just and resilient recovery plan:

  • Restructure financing of main state-owned power company Eskom, towards a progressive coal phase-out and transition to 100% RE
  • Enhance the submitted  2050 Low Emissions Development Strategy (LEDS) and commit to reaching zero carbon as a core principle underpinning the implementation of the published  Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan
  • Develop and implement policies to give full effect to the Just Transition detailed in Chapter 5 of the National Development Plan, including State Owned Entity reform, as well as dis-investment in and financial regulation of the fossil fuels sector
  • Build future economic competitiveness of the Just Transition growth trajectory, including though equitable taxing and pricing of carbon emissions
  • Provision in the Plan for expensive nuclear to be replaced by more economic, sustainable and job intensive renewable energy capacity
  • Stop uneconomic exploration and mining of oil and gas

What should you know about South Africa?

  • Under current policies and the likely scenario of continued low economic growth, South Africa will meet its emission reduction targets in 2025, and is likely to remain within the upper limit of its 2030 NDC Range (consistent with current NDC classified “Insufficient” by CAT)low population growth for several years, with over 50% youth unemployment
  • This fragmented regulatory landscape presents some barriers for progressive private sector climate action and accountability.
  • Similar silo-related challenges exist at the sub-national Provincial and Municipal spheres of government.
  • The Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment is ostensibly the lead for climate change action, however, most of the impactful policies and measures fall under the jurisdiction of other Ministries which are not necessarily aligned with the country’s international climate commitiments, particularly the Ministries of Mineral Resources and Energy; Agriculture; Transport; Trade, Industry and Competition; Finance; as well as key decision-making statuatory bodies like the National Energy Regulator (NERSA).
  • Civil society movements in SA are diverse, not well aligned or coordinated, and with some organizations being funded internationally in relation to advocating for climate action, which allows space for non-progressive civil society and private sector lobbies that needs to be countered by amplifying coordinated domestic progressive voices.
  • The SA “transformative, inclusive, digital, green and sustainable” Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan including a R100bn employment stimulus package, has had little apparent impact so far.
Recovery Measures to Highlight

Recent developments, threats and levers for action

The key challenge is to pressure South Africa to implement its “almost sufficient” ambitious 1.5°C-aligned 2030 emissions reduction target. While the South Africa’s NDC is not specifically conditional on means of implementation, it is clear from the NDC that such support under the Paris Agreement is assumed and expected.

  • The initial low ambition draft NDC update plus the PCC’s more ambitious recommendations sparked international diplomacy around a JET, which is in the process of being operationalized within the context of a broader socio-economic JUST TRANSITION (JT).
  • In the JT context, the PCC has released 3 documents to inform a public consultation process with the aim of developing an JT social compact. (Towards a JT: A review of local and international policy debates, Sept 2021; Laying the foundation for a JT framework in SA, Dec 2021; and Framework for a JT in SA, Feb 2022).
  • This work has been complemented by National Treasury’s work on Taxonomies.
  • Likewise, the official tabling of the Climate Change Bill in Parliament begins the process of establishing a regulatory framework for the climate and resilience aligned JT.
  • However, there are significant headwinds to be overcome, including the Minister Mantashe of Mineral Resources and Energy championing the coal and gas lobbies (see the Gas Amendment Bill), as well as some other sector policy decisions being inconsistent with the county’s NDC and LTS commitments (see NERSA authorisation of the Karpowerships).


  • There is increased political awareness and support for a “Just Transition” and its links to economic recovery and social well-being.
  • The state energy company, Eskom, has a progressive management team who appear to understand the importance of renewable energy and are putting plans in place for implementing a Just Energy Transition.
  • The Presidential Climate Commission has initiated a comprehensive public consultion process for a Just Transition framework, which includes voices from youth and civil society.
  • There is carbon pricing in place.


  • South Africa has extensive renewable energy resources and significant scope for energy efficiency improvement.
  • A Green hydrogen industry may provide additional economic development options.
  • An improved, scaled up, and green public transport system will have many co-benefits in relation to emission reductions, building social and economic resilience and job creation.
  • An adaptation focus on the land, agriculture, nature, and water sectors through sustainable and regenerative policies and practices builds resilience to climate change impacts (e.g. drought) with mitigation, biodiversity, food security and related job creation co-benefits.


  • Sectoral silo-related lack of integrated planning with contradictory policies and decisions.
  • With continued poor and jobless economic performance, risk of social and political unrest.
  • Little understanding amongst the majority that economic performance and job creation are dependent on environmental services.
  • The business sector lobby appears to hold undue influence over policy decision making, as well as the Just Transition policy positions of organised labour.
  • The needed scale of a broad climate resilient Just Transition will likely require much more international financial and investment flows than is provided for in the JET ($8.5 billion).


  • The narrative of gas as a transitional fuel has gained government support, and international energy companies continue to fund oil & gas exploration around the SA coastline.
  • The Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone with its proposal for a new coal-fired power station has been approved.
  • The Minister of Minerals and Energy is pro-coal and a proponent of ‘clean coal’.
  • The levels of corruption in SA coupled with extensive poverty creates opportunities for fossil fuel extraction and a rentier state
  • The country’s high debt burden and upper middle income country status mean that there is no fiscal space to support climate strategies or receive the external financing needed to do so.

About Climate Diplomacy Snapshots

The data is clear. Accelerated and enhanced action is needed now to build resilience and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. As they seek to address the ongoing health, economic and social impacts of COVID-19, governments should seize opportunities to invest in a recovery that will build social, economic and climate resilience on the long-term.The Climate Diplomacy Snapshots aim to provide the climate community with a clear overview of what each country should do, on climate and recovery, to pursue these joint objectives and keep the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C. Each has been prepared with the help of national experts, and will be regularly updated. The snapshots aim to support climate advocacy in the lead up to COP26.

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