South Africa Unveils Draft Emission Targets to Combat Climate Change

South Africa's Environment Minister publishes draft sectoral emission targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27 million tonnes by 2030. The targets aim to cut emissions from the electricity sector, which accounts for 70% of the country's total emissions.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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South Africa Unveils Draft Emission Targets to Combat Climate Change

South Africa Unveils Draft Emission Targets to Combat Climate Change

South Africa's Environment Minister, Barbara Creecy, has published a draft of the country's first sectoral emission targets for public comment. The targets aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 27 million tonnes by 2030, compared to a business-as-usual scenario.

Why this matters: This development has significant implications for South Africa's ability to meet its climate change mitigation goals, and its success could serve as a model for other countries seeking to transition away from fossil fuels. Failure to achieve these targets, on the other hand, could have devastating consequences for the environment and public health.

The targets are an important element of South Africa's overall climate mitigation strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the country's nationally determined contribution under the Paris Agreement. The nationally determined contribution expresses the ambition of reducing emissions to a target range of 350-million tonnes to 420-million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (CO2e) — a reduction of about 20%-33% from current emissions.

The electricity sector, which accounts for about 70% of South Africa's total emissions, is expected to make the biggest contribution to reductions, with a target of cutting back emissions from about 196-million tonnes of CO2e in 2022 to 125-million tonnes by 2030. About 80% of South Africa's electricity comes from coal-fired power stations, and achieving the nationally determined contributions and the targets will largely depend on the pace at which Eskom decommissions coal-fired power stations.

Eskom's decommissioning schedules published in the Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) of 2019 provide for about 5,400MW of electricity from coal generation to be decommissioned by 2022, increasing to 10,500MW by 2030 and 35,000MW by 2050. However, a revised schedule in the draft IRP 2023 proposes delays to shutdowns and reduces the decommissioning up to 2030 by about half to about 5,000MW, and to about 23,000MW by 2050.

A new timeline for the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants is expected to be provided by the project management unit for South Africa's Just Energy Transition Investment Plan, which will be linked to South Africa's emissions targets in a bid to secure funding from the World Bank-linked Climate Investment Funds.

The government urgently needs to get on the same page if it wants to show it is serious about achieving the aims of the Climate Change Bill, including emission targets. The lack of a clear decommissioning schedule that all parties have agreed to is a major concern, and the government needs to align its plans and proposals to achieve the nationally determined contributions and sectoral emission targets.

South Africa's draft sectoral emission targets represent a significant step forward in the country's efforts to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, achieving these ambitious goals will require a coordinated effort from the government, Eskom, and other key stakeholders to align plans and accelerate the transition away from coal-fired power generation.

Key Takeaways

  • South Africa sets draft sectoral emission targets to reduce GHG emissions by 27 million tonnes by 2030.
  • Electricity sector to make biggest contribution, cutting emissions from 196Mt to 125Mt CO2e by 2030.
  • Decommissioning of coal-fired power stations crucial to achieving targets, with 80% of electricity coming from coal.
  • Revised decommissioning schedule in draft IRP 2023 proposes delays and reduced shutdowns.
  • Government and stakeholders must align plans to achieve nationally determined contributions and sectoral emission targets.