South Africa’s updated Nationally Determined Contributions are informed by global adaptation goals, anticipated climate impacts, South Africa’s adaptation strategy, and key economic sectors most vulnerable to the climate crisis. (Photo: EPA / Nic Bothma)
As SA strives to get off the UK’s Red List to attend COP26 meetings, the country has updated its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to show more ambitious efforts to tackle the crisis climate. But the country’s energy rush can be a setback to achieving its new goals.
South Africa is the 12th largest carbon emitter in the world, but has continued to pursue fossil fuel projects that will increase emissions. This week, however, the government lowered its target range of emissions to align with the global goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 ° C by the end of the century by updating the determined contributions. at the national level (CDN).
The updated contributions, which precede the arrival of climate envoys from the UK, US, France and Germany to South Africa to discuss a possible coal retirement plan this week, fall under the first NDCs, which were submitted in 2016. The second NDCs are expected in 2025 as part of the Paris Agreement obligations to publish contributions every five years.
South Africa’s revised carbon emissions targets are between 350 and 420 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2-eq). The country’s lower target range of 350Mt CO2-eq is consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 ° C target, putting South Africa in the lead and possibly making it a world leader in the fight against the climate crisis.
Its upper limit, however, places the target above 1.5 ° C, potentially threatening the country’s climate action efforts.
Nicole Loser, lawyer and head of pollution and climate change at the Center for Environmental Rights, said the new range of emissions is one more step towards a safe climate, but she raised concerns about the upper limit .
“There is a significant risk that our large emitters will see the upper limit of the new NDC range as an opportunity to delay reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The Cabinet decision only matters to our climate response if we can keep emissions at the lower limit. This is especially important for South Africa, a country that is warming twice as much as the world average, ”Loser said in a statement.
The country plans to use its three levels of government (national, provincial, local) to ensure that the adaptation and mitigation strategies defined by the Presidential Commission on Climate, the Interministerial Committee on Climate Change and Provincial Forum on Climate Change are implemented. and respected. The government will also engage with business, civil society and research institutes, according to the updated NDC document.
Building evidence-based support to ensure the implementation of these strategies will cost the country $ 13 million between 2021 and 2030.
Some of these strategies involve:
- Climate risk vulnerability assessments;
- A methodology for assessing adaptation needs;
- Costing of climate events through modeling;
- Development of national, provincial and local mitigation plans; and
- Distribution of tool kits and so on.
Ambitious targets and strategies put South Africa in a better position for climate finance as the country heads to the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, where financial commitments and discussions are expected to take place.
South African delegation may find it difficult to attend COP26 in UK as SA has been placed on UK Red List, requiring 10 day quarantine on arrival regardless of status vaccine. The South African government has met with the British government to discuss the matter and has been promised that the Red List will be revised within the next two weeks.
At COP25, rich countries pledged at least $ 100 billion a year to developing countries to help mitigate and adapt to climate change. According to research, however, developed countries only fulfilled their obligations to the gigantic commitment of just $ 1 billion per year between 2008 and 2019.
Last week, US President Joe Biden doubled the US climate commitment to developing countries, raising the amount to $ 11.2 billion by 2024.
According to the updated NDCs, South Africa expects to attract $ 8 billion a year in climate finance by 2030. The country needs climate finance to complete its transition from fuel to fuel. coal to renewables, because the switch could cost $ 10 billion.
Without climate finance, the country could struggle to meet its new NDCs, complete the just transition, and could end up increasing its emissions.
South Africa is currently planning 1,500 MW of new coal-fired power and 3,000 MW of gas and diesel, with plans for an additional 3,300 MW of new coal-fired power in the Musina Makhado Special Economic Zone.
Recently, Eskom completed Medupi, the most expensive coal-fired power plant in the world, at a cost estimated to date of 120 billion rand. The completion of the plant is expected to increase the demand for coal by 16 million tonnes per year.
With global average temperatures reaching 1.2 ° C above pre-industrial levels in 2020 and southern Africa warming to twice the global average, South Africa cannot risk building coal-fired power plants. or any other fossil fuel related project.
Dr Roland Ngam, Program Director for Climate Justice and Socio-Ecological Transformation at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Southern Africa, said there is room for an update of the Integrated Resource Plan for the South Africa to reduce its coal fleet and focus on renewable energies, in light of the recent increase in the on-board generation threshold from 1MW to 100MW.
“We must encourage the government to step up its decarbonization efforts and encourage international partners to help South Africa reduce its carbon emissions faster. Funding will be needed to help power company Eskom move away from its coal fleet, ”Ngam said.
Despite the intense climate consequences under a business as usual approach, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has made it clear that the way forward for South Africa’s energy needs will be one. combination of renewable energies, gas and nuclear. South Africa’s national energy regulator recently approved the purchase of the new 2,500 MW nuclear program.
Beyond that, Karpowership’s proposal awaits a call for environmental approval from the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment in a deal worth over R200 billion that could provide Africa from the South 1,220 MW of additional energy.
“Given the research on fugitive gas emissions and international calls to ditch oil and gas, South Africa has an easy path to take: remove oil and gas from the energy mix. But it requires a system change on the part of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. The DMRE must recognize that climate change is real and that gas is not a transitional fuel, ”said Liz McDaid, environmental activist for the Green Connection and the Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).
Updated NDCs are informed by global adaptation goals, anticipated climate impacts, South Africa’s adaptation strategy, and key economic sectors most vulnerable to the climate crisis. These sectors include health, agriculture and forestry, human settlements, biodiversity and water, according to the NDC document.
Extreme weather events due to rising temperatures are expected to lead to water and food shortages, with unbearable heat in the north, northeast and northeast of the country, according to the NDC document.
Extreme temperatures are also expected to have a disastrous effect on a range of livelihoods, from biodiversity to strain on the health system, with vulnerable populations being hit hardest.
“We need real action in favor of renewable energies. South Africa is and will be hit hard by climate change, and it is the poorest and most marginalized who will suffer. The government needs to wake up and start acting responsibly, ”McDaid said. DM / OBP