South Africa Leading Research Study

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Research Study:  “The Long Term Mitigation Scenarios Research Project”, South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, coordinated by Professor Harold Winkler, 2005 and 2008

The Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS) Research Project took place in South Africa between 2005 and 2008. It is remembered as a ‘seminal and resounding success’, because it successfully placed climate change mitigation on the formal domestic policy agenda. The LTMS project was a Cabinet-mandated process led by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEA).

At a technical level, LTMS was a unique blend of facilitated stakeholder process and rigorous research. It was implemented using a scenario-building team, composed of strategic thinkers from government, business and civil society. The scenario team was informed by four research groups, coordinated by Professor Harald Winkler of the Energy Research Centre (ERC) at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The credibility of the study came from the robustness of data and analysis. The study drew on strong local academic institutions and stakeholder engagement. At the time there was limited experience of analyzing national mitigation options. However, it was recognized that key to the success of the LTMS was its use of a process to accumulate information on available options, analyze them in a consultative way and to present the results in such a manner as to be helpful to policy makers.

The LTMS approach drew on international best practice, notably a report written by the United Nations, titled Economics of Greenhouse Gas Limitation: Technical Guidelines.

The LTMS answered a highly relevant question at the time when little was known about the scale of the climate change problem in South Africa and the options to address it. A broad technical research team was established, consisting of about 30 researchers from different institutions. This broad collaborative approach provided the best available scientific data on energy, emissions and economic impacts. The research teams gathered large amounts of data to conduct modeling and assessments. The LTMS developed national and sub-national adaptation scenarios for South Africa under plausible future climate conditions and development pathways. The LTMS was the first interpretation of international climate mitigation policy in a domestic developing country context.

The LTMS team explored a wide range of detailed mitigation actions and proposals for four strategic options that South Africa can pursue. The LTMS process design centered around two ‘outer’ scenarios, called ‘envelopes’. The first is the Growth Without Constraints (GWC) Scenario, which is a ‘no action’ scenario with a projection that GHG emissions will rise dramatically. The fourth scenario is purely notional, showing what would happen if we restrained the economy towards an emission target required by climate science in order to stabilize the climate—known as the Required by Science (RBS) scenario. To address the gap between the GWC and RBS scenarios, the researchers identified technology, market and policy actions which could be implemented by government. These second and third scenarios comprised the current development plans to increase growth, but with some emission reduction efforts. Refer to Figure 1 for a depiction of the scenarios.

Figure 1: The gap in GHG emissions in the four scenarios


Source: Case studies available at:

Unfortunately, almost a decade later, it is apparent that the LTMS was not successfully integrated into the policy agenda of departments other than its champion, the DEA. Another limiting factor is that the LTMS occurred in a time of a ‘domestic policy vacuum’, which resulted in a lack of momentum to sustain its implementation. It should also be borne in mind that South Africa’s economy is very reliant upon coal based energy and energy-intensive mineral extraction. This arguably causes powerful push-back and resistance towards proposals for a low carbon transition.

Learn More

Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios (MAPS) is a collaboration amongst developing countries to establish the evidence base for long-term transition to robust economies that are both carbon efficient and climate resilient. See:

For a summary of the various phases of the LTMS research project, visit:

The detailed technical report comprising the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios which was prepared for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in 2007 is available at:

The National Climate Change Response Policy White Paper (NCCRP) is available at:

For more in-depth reports related to energy and the LTMS, see UCT’s Energy Research Centre documents at:


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