This report is in the form of memos from Climate Scorecard Country Managers to Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework to Combat Climate Change (UNFCCC). Below is a description of the progress the country has made made in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 and the challenges they still face in order to comply with the IPCC goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.
To: Patricia Espinosa
Subject: Climate Scorecard Progress Report for South Africa
From: Deepti Charitar
Climate Scorecard South Africa Country Manager
I serve as Climate Scorecard Country Manager for South Africa and would like to offer you the following climate mitigation progress report from the perspective of my organization.
Since its initial 2015 pledge to the Paris Agreement, South Africa has made fair progress in meeting the goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.
On the positive side, South Africa has accomplished the following:
Implementation of a Carbon Tax
The South African Government has imposed a tax on CO2 equivalent emissions. The Carbon Tax Act came into effect on 1 June 2019 and is aimed at encouraging organizations to transition to efficient, renewable, and low carbon technologies. This Act takes into consideration fuel combustion emissions, fugitive emissions, and industrial processes and product use emissions . The carbon tax rate is currently set at R120 per ton of CO2-eq emissions and will increase by the inflation rate plus 2% annually until 2022. Thereafter, the tax rate will only increase by the annual inflation rate .
Progress on the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme
In South Africa, about 90% of electricity is generated from coal by Eskom which is a state-owned entity. The South African Government launched the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) in 2011 as an attempt to increase electricity generation from renewable energy sources by Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The REIPPPP allows the IPPs to submit bids for designing, developing and operating renewable energy power plants in the country. Eskom then signs Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with the IPPs. The REIPPPP has achieved significant success since its launch. By June 2019, a total of 6,422 MW of electricity was procured from 112 IPPs in 7 bid rounds; 3,976 MW of electricity generation capacity from 64 projects was connected to the national grid; and 35,669 GWh of energy has been generated from renewable energy sources procured under the REIPPPP since its launch .
Advancing Net Zero Project
South Africa is also involved in the Advancing Net Zero global project aimed at achieving net zero emissions in the building sector by 2050. The Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA), a member of the World Green Building Council, is participating in this project and is involved in advocating for net zero buildings, developing rating tools and measuring, recognizing and rewarding projects that have either neutralized their emissions or redressed their environmental impact . Over 500 buildings across South Africa and on the African continent have been certified by the GBCSA. An example is the Black River Park Central Building in Cape Town which incorporates a 1.2 MW PV plant. In terms of energy efficiency, this building operates 31% more efficiently than the market average .
However, the following conditions remain in South Africa that threaten its ability to make further progress and reach the important goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.
Newly built coal-fired power stations
Two newly built coal-fired power stations, namely Medupi and Kusile, might hinder South Africa’s ability to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. Medupi is currently the 4th largest coal-fired power plant in the world and is estimated to have an operational lifespan of 50 years . Given the current energy crisis in South Africa, where load shedding is common, the country will thus have to rely on these new coal power plants to meet its electricity demand. It is also not financially viable to simply decommission recently built coal power plants in South Africa.
Lack of international finance
A lack of international finance can severely impact on South Africa’s ability to reach its carbon emission targets. The country has proposed an increase in international finance from $2 billion per year to $8 billion per year by 2030 to finance its transition towards a low carbon economy and achieve its carbon reduction targets .
Eskom, the state-owned electricity utility, has been left with rising costs, declining revenues and poorly maintained power plants as a result of corruption and mismanagement during the years that Jacob Zuma served as President of South Africa . During his presidency, there was a huge policy uncertainty within the renewable energy sector as Eskom would not sign PPAs for approved IPP projects . Elections will be taking place in November 2021 in the country and the future political landscape can either improve or threaten its ability to make further progress and reach the important goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.
Climate Scorecard is committed to working with other like-minded organizations to support efforts by South Africa to make further progress in its effort to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030 and help the Paris Agreement reach its important goals.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about this report or need further information.
Learn More References
- Climate Change Laws of the World. Carbon Tax Act 15. https://climate-laws.org/geographies/south-africa/laws/carbon-tax-act-15 [Accessed October 2021].
- South African Revenue Service. Carbon Tax. https://www.sars.gov.za/customs-and-excise/excise/environmental-levy-products/carbon-tax/ [Accessed October 2021].
- South Africa’s Low-emission Development Strategy 2050. 2020. https://www.environment.gov.za/sites/default/files/docs/2020lowemission_developmentstrategy.pdf [Accessed October 2021].
- Green Building Council South Africa. About GBCSA. https://gbcsa.org.za/about-gbcsa/ [Accessed October 2021].
- Green Building Council South Africa. Project Directory. https://gbcsa.org.za/resources-listings/case-studies/ [Accessed October 2021].
- Goosen, M. 4,764 MW Medupi Power Plant Comes Online in South Africa. 2021. https://energycapitalpower.com/4764-mw-medupi-power-plant-comes-online-in-south-africa/ [Accessed October 2021].
- South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA). The Urgent Race to Net Zero: Exploring African Priorities for COP26. https://saiia.org.za/research/the-urgent-race-to-net-zero-exploring-african-priorities-for-cop26/ [Accessed October 2021].
- Financial Times. South Africa’s state power monopoly seeks to raise prices to avoid collapse. https://www.ft.com/content/6fc9dc82-5005-41c2-bb04-94c9268706ef
- SA falling behind on renewable energy. https://www.polity.org.za/article/sa-falling-behind-on-renewable-energy-2018-05-02 [Accessed October 2021].