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SA showed to have the highest carbon intensity of all the G20 nations

South Africa could improve its climate ambitions by expanding its renewable energy capacity rather than investing in new fossil fuel projects, says the latest Climate Transparency Report. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency

South Africa could improve its climate ambitions by expanding its renewable energy capacity rather than investing in new fossil fuel projects, says the latest Climate Transparency Report. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency

Published Nov 1, 2021

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Cape Town - In anticipation of the COP26 Climate change summit taking place next week, the most recent Climate Transparency Report showed that South Africa’s current emissions trajectory was not compatible with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius due to its heavy reliance on the coal sector with the highest carbon intensity of all the G20 nations.

The annual report, launched earlier this month, through collaboration with 16 research organisations, including the UCT’s Energy Systems Research Group (ESRG) and non-governmental organisations from 14 G20 members to highlight how G20 nations, such as South Africa, have responded to the Paris Agreement call from 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5° C and identified climate opportunities their governments could seize.

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The report found that there was an overall failure by nations to align ambitions and mitigation strategies to actually reach this target, even with net zero commitments and updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), emissions continued to rise.

UCT Energy Systems Research Group researcher and a lead author of the report, Bryce McCall, said South Africa’s current emissions trajectory was not compatible with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5° C (like many of the other G20 nations).

McCall said the report showed the country’s energy sector still had the highest carbon-intensity of any G20 nation due to its heavy reliance on coal, despite increased contribution from the renewable sector – the reliance highlighted the need for a carefully managed, just transition to cleaner energy sources.

“The country has high levels of poverty and unemployment, and has explicitly recognised a just transition as a priority in national policies and in its draft updated NDC,” said McCall.

UCT Energy Systems Research Group researcher and a lead author of the Climate Transparency Report, Bryce McCall. | Michael Salzwedel

UCT E3G and Energy Systems research group senior associate Jesse Burton said South Africa and other developing countries were looking to developed nations to step up their support and funding for mitigation and adaptation projects to meet their updated NDC.

“The cost of financing developing countries is often significantly higher than in developed countries, so thinking about how to support and fund these kinds of coal phase out processes and just transition processes alongside that, is going to be key,” said Burton.

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The report also showed South Africa could enhance its climate ambitions by focusing on expanding its renewable energy capacity rather than investing in new fossil fuel projects, which was currently still included in their energy plans, and could also finalise its Climate Change Bill while implementing policies to decarbonise the industrial sector.

“While the share of renewables in the energy mix is set to increase as new projects come online and ageing coal power stations are retired, the country’s latest energy plan still makes provision for new coal and gas projects,” said McCall.

The Climate Transparency Report showed South Africa could enhance its climate ambitions by focusing on expanding its renewable energy capacity rather than investing in new fossil fuel projects.

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