South Africa Policy Recommendations

Spotlight Activity: South Africa Policy Recommendations

South Africa aims to limit emissions and adapt to climate change through measures included in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris conference. With regard to the Paris Agreement, South Africa has to ensure temperature increases are kept well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to pursue strong efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.  However, South Africa’s NDC is currently 2°C compatible. This means South Africa’s climate commitment in 2030 is not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and is instead consistent with warming between 3°C and 4°C. In other words, South Africa’s climate commitment is not in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit.

South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) contains a target to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions including land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) to between 398 and 614 MtCO2e over the period 2025–2030. This target is equivalent to a 19–82% increase on 1990 levels excluding LULUCF. In its 2020 emission reduction pledge, South Africa aims for a 34% reduction below ‘business as usual (BAU)’ by 2020 and 42% below BAU by 2025. As a consequence of committing to below BAU levels, NDC targets are found to be “Highly Insufficient”.

Policy Recommendations

Climate Scorecard supports the following recommendations for South Africa to become 1.5 degrees Celsius compliant and increase its pledge to the Paris Agreement:

  1. Expanding renewable energy capacity

An expansion of renewable energy will ensure that South Africa significantly contributes to the global effort for a low-carbon and climate resilient world. Within eight years of the implementation of Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPP), the REIPPP has already attracted R209.4 billion in committed private sector investment, resulting in much-needed alleviation of fiscal pressure. This Programme supports the commitments made by the Country under the Paris Agreement thus far having contributed substantially to climate change objectives i.e. reduction of 22.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and saving 26.6 million kilolitres of water.

2) Management of Carbon Sink

Carbon sink is a forest, ocean, or other natural environment viewed in terms of its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In simple terms, it is anything that absorbs and stores more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases as carbon dioxide. In order to avoid future catastrophic climate change we need to urgently and significantly reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. One of the ways to do this is to manage ecosystems and habitats that act as critical natural carbon sinks to ensure that they retain as much of the carbon trapped in the system as possible and don’t tend to become sources to the atmosphere. We have two perfect sites for carbon capture and storage in South Africa, in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal province. However, the progress of these sites seems to have ceased. South Africa does not currently have a legal and regulatory framework dedicated to carbon sink and it seems like this has been placed on hold for a number of years.

Carbon sink can be feasible given the right political, legal and financial mandate which can be effectively implemented. It is also important to understand that carbon sink is a technology that will complement our climate policies and will be used in conjunction with renewable energy and other clean technologies. While protection and management of carbon sinks is important, it is equally important to continue reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases through reducing fossil fuel emissions to zero.

3) Just Transition Plan

It is in the face of severe health impacts of coal and potentially catastrophic climate change that the urgency of delivering a “just transition” in South Africa has fundamentally increased. To fulfill its climate change commitments, South Africa will have to phase out coal-fired power. South Africa has to adopt a vibrant energy mix, not only to save money, but also to meet the country’s carbon-emission targets. Phasing out coal in the power sector by 2040 would also allow the country to fulfill its commitment to the Paris Agreement, which includes a goal of limiting warming to well below 2° C, without major impact on the economy. Research has revealed that it is economically and technologically feasible over the next 10 to 20 years to close down and phase out coal and replace this with renewable energy.

Rating:*** Moving Forward

The proposed policies make sense but its implementation is contingent on a variety of factors. As per the analysis under the current implemented policies and continued low economic growth, South Africa will reach the less ambitious end of its emission reduction targets in 2020 and 2025, but will not meet its mitigation target in 2030. Emissions projections for 2030 are 16 MtCO2e higher than the upper end of the target for 2030. The Climate Action Tracker’s projections show South Africa’s emissions trajectory under its implemented policies in 2020 and 2030 are expected to increase by 68% and 82%, respectively, on 1990 levels excluding LULUCF. If South Africa experiences stronger economic growth rates leading up to 2030, emissions levels under its current policy trajectory are likely to increase. 

Take Action

Dear Honourable Minister Barbara Creecy

We recommend that your Ministry update the greenhouse gas emissions pledge of South Africa to the Paris Agreement before November 2030. Your updated pledge should be aimed at reaching a target of 360 MtCO2. We recommend that the following policies should be implemented:

  • Expanding Renewable Energy Capacity
  • Just Transition Plan
  • Management of Carbon Sink

Send Action Alert Message to:

Honourable Minister Barbara Creecy

Department of Environmental Affairs                                                                                            

Environment House                                                                                                                                 

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Pretoria 0083

Tel: +27 12 399 9000 

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