What should South Africa do?
Enhance its NDC to be 1.5 degree aligned by COP26:
- In the fossil fuel dominated energy sector, in particular it needs to update its Integrated Resource Plan; Integrated Energy Plan; as well as a Just Energy Transition strategy that creates a carbon budget that is aligned with a 1.5°C pathway.
- In the transport sector with an updated Green Transport Strategy that is more ambitious and aligned to a climate-resilient, 1.5°C-aligned pathway.
- For an adaptation response from the financial sector that includes a commitment to develop a National Climate Finance Strategy that aligns the financing for these policies towards more ambitious, resilient, and equitable transition pathways that are consistent with the Paris Agreement.
- The finalisation of the Climate Change Bill and promulgated. South Africa should raise developing countries’ needs in terms of international climate finance – in the G20 and other multilateral fora Including:
- As one of only 7 developing country members of the G20 and the only African member country, South Africa has an important role to play in ensuring that the agenda of the global financial sector’s climate response takes developing countries’ needs into account.
- Calling for the alignment of foreign financial flows with a climate-resilient, 1.5°C-aligned pathway – e.g., through the regulation of international finance to stop funding to fossil fuel exploration and new production in South Africa – while developing mechanisms that allow financing from developed countries to effectively and justly enable and support developing countries to shift their economies to become low carbon and resilient.
- 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 developing countries such as South Africa that have policies in place to decarbonise but are waiting for assistance from developed countries to fully do so.
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?
- South Africa has the most carbon-intensive and inefficient energy sector- of all G20 countries. Economic growth has been below population growth for several years, with over 50% youth unemployment
- Analysis shows that under its currently implemented policies and continued low economic growth, South Africa will reach the less ambitious end of its emission reduction targets in 2020 and 2025, and is likely to remain within the upper limit of its 2030 NDC Range (consistent with current NDC classified “Highly insufficient” by CAT)
- SA was in recession pre-Covid. A Q2 GDP contraction of 16.4% due to lockdown measures results potentially in a 51% annualised contraction
- On 15 Oct 2020 President Ramaphosa revealed a “transformative, inclusive, digital, green and sustainable” Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan including a R100bn employment stimulus package, that was judged as mis-directed and highly criticised by environmental NGOs
Recent developments, threats and levers for action
- There is increased political awareness and support for a “Just Transition” and its links to the country’s Covid-19 related Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
- 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 a Just Energy Transition.
- The President has appointed a Climate Commission to consult and advise on the establishment of a framework for a Just Transition, which includes voices from youth and civil society.
- There is some indication that the green hydrogen industry may provide SA with economic benefits and potential for development.
- South Africa has extensive potential for renewable energy.
- By improving public transport, many South Africans will benefit from improved access to safe and reliable transport, while creating job opportunities and increasing mitigation for SA cities.
- The adaptation related focus on the water sector has the potential to make SA more resilient to droughts while increasing climate related renewable energy, agriculture and biodiversity job opportunities.
- The business sector lobby appears to hold extensive influence over government policy decision making, as well as the Just Transition policy positions of organised labour.
- Lack of integrated planning with contradictory policies and decisions being made. Corruption and state capture have still not been resolved.
- There is still little understanding amongst the majority of South African’s that the economy is underpinned by environmental services and thus its importance for the economy to function well.
- The needed scale of South Africa’s Just Transition will likely require extensive international financial and technological support and investment flows. .
- The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment has indicated support for expanding the gas industry in SA and international energy companies continue to fund oil & gas exploration around the SA coastline.
- The proposed Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone is proposing a new coal-fired power station. The Minister of Minerals and Energy is pro-coal and a proponent of ‘clean coal’.
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.