South Africa remains one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, and has been ranked the worst G20 performer in terms of carbon intensity. Photo: Bloomberg
South Africa remains one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, and has been ranked the worst G20 performer in terms of carbon intensity. Photo: Bloomberg

SA ranked worst carbon performer in G20

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Feb 7, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - SOUTH Africa remains one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, and has been ranked the worst G20 performer in terms of carbon intensity, followed by China, in the latest Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC) study released this week.

The PWC Net Zero Economy Index said whereas carbon intensity fell by 2.4 percent globally in 2019, South Africa recorded a 1.3 percent increase in carbon intensity for the second consecutive year.

The Net Zero Economy index compares the amount of CO related emissions from a country to the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country for the year.

PWC South Africa’s sustainability and climate change partner, Jayne

Mammatt, said based on this comparison, South Africa saw the lowest economic output in terms of GDP per ton of CO that it emits, across the economy.

“In essence the carbon intensity relates to South Africa not being able to as effectively decouple its economic activities and growth from its impact in this case, carbon emissions. In terms of absolute emissions, South Africa’s contribution to carbon emissions compared with major global economies is relatively low,” said Mammatt.

In August last year the National Business Initiative (NBI) launched the Just Transition Pathways Project to build on existing knowledge on how South Africa can have a transition to a lower carbon economy. The project found that

South Africa’s case for implementing carbon neutrality, or even a 2°C mitigation path, was challenging.

It said South Africa entered the Covid-19 pandemic crisis in recession with severe debt, widespread unemployment and low growth. While the short-term recovery focus was certainly on saving lives, the medium- to longterm necessity was saving both livelihoods and the economy.

“In order to meet the 2°C temperature increase goal, South Africa will need to cut its emissions by between 60 percent and 75 percent by 2050. Approximately $700 billion (R10.4 trillion) in investment will be required to achieve the outlined 2°C scenario,” said the Just Transition Pathways Project.

South Africa is a signatory of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change which goal is to limit global warming to well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels.

Mammatt said reducing emissions was a huge undertaking and certainly challenging.

“But one would hope that setting an ambitious goal will allow for innovative and transformative problem solving to take place.

There have certainly been some very encouraging movements in the local energy transition discussions recently. It will require all role players in South Africa to come together to work toward this common ambition,” said Mammatt.

Currently, more than 90 percent of South Africa’s energy was generated by relatively low quality coal. “We use this for grid electricity and to synthesise fuels. We also make use of truck transportation to a greater extent than other countries, as opposed to rail transportation, for example,” said Mammatt.

South Africa gazetted the Integrated Resource Plan 2019, the blueprint for energy generation which represents a major shift away from coal and commits to reducing the country’s energy generated by coal to 43 percent of the total energy supply by 2030, from 71 percent in 2019. Mammatt said South Africa would experience the impacts of climate change very acutely.

“In unmitigated scenarios it is predicted that by 2035, we could see warming of between 0.5 and 1°C across most parts of the country with parts of the western interior seeing rises of 2°,” she said.

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