President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa is developing detailed plans to enable a just transition to a low-carbon economy and has highlighted the effects of climate change.
In his weekly newsletter penned yesterday, Ramaphosa said the electricity sector, which contributes 41 percent of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions, would be the first phase of the transition.
“It will be the quickest industry to decarbonise and will have a beneficial impact across the economy. We will be decommissioning and repurposing coal-fired power stations, and investing in new low-carbon generation capacity, such as renewables. We will also pursue ‘green’ industrialisation, such as manufacturing using green technology and a shift to the production of electric vehicles,” said Ramaphosa.
Ramaphosa said South Africa was endowed with abundant resources that could be harnessed to open up new frontiers of investment and growth and build a new economy in areas like green hydrogen.
The government was working together with different partners across society in mining towns in Mpumalanga to assess the potential impact of a move away from coal, and ways to ensure that communities were protected against the risks and benefit from the opportunities presented by this transition, he said.
“Eskom will be undertaking a pilot project at its Komati power station, which is due to shut down its last coal-fired unit next year, to produce power through renewable energy. Komati will serve as a good example of how this shift from coal dependency could be achieved,” he said.
Damning new research from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air released last week found that Eskom emits more sulphur dioxide (SO2) than the entire power sector of the EU and US, or the US and China, combined. The expert analysis concluded that only India’s power sector accounts for more SO2 emissions than Eskom
Ramaphosa said South Africans were feeling the pinch of climate change and the government was engaging with international development partners on a “just transition” financing facility to support its decarbonisation plan.
He said climate change presented serious health, environmental and economic risks for the country and South Africans are already feeling the effects of climate change through drought and flooding, which have an effect on their livelihoods.
“Several communities in Mpumalanga, for example, are affected by high levels of pollution, which increases respiratory illness and other diseases. Those who are dependent on the ocean for a living have already seen depleted fish stocks amid changing weather patterns and changes in ocean temperature,” said Ramaphosa.
He said the government was engaging with its international development partners on a transition financing facility to support the country’s decarbonisation strategy.
Cabinet recently approved the updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which sets a target range for emissions, from restricting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius at the top of the range, with the bottom of the range compatible with the goal of restricting warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Ramaphosa said the increased ambition could not be achieved without the support from the more developed economies living up to the promises they have made in the past to provide financial support to developing economies.
“This needs to be in the form of grants, loans at concessional rates and private investment. The energy transition at Eskom and the development of green industries such as electric vehicles and green hydrogen will need to be underpinned by these forms of financial support,” said Ramaphosa.