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South Africa sets sights on stiffer 2030 GHG emissions target

21 September 2021 Keiron Greenhalgh

South Africa's government approved plans for a more ambitious GHG emissions target for the coming decade than previously expected in a submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), it said.

The emissions target, approved by the country's Cabinet 14 September and made public 20 September, is stiffer than a draft nationally determined contribution (NDC) issued in March as President Cyril Ramaphosa's government seeks to maintain compliance with the country's Paris Agreement commitments.

South Africa's emissions target range is 398-510 million metric tons (mt) of CO2 equivalent in 2025 and 350-420 million mt of CO2-equivalent in 2030 under the plans approved by the Cabinet.

The 2030 target range in March's draft NDC was 398-440 million mt CO2-equivalent. The upper range of this proposal represented a 28% cut in GHG emissions from the 2015 NDC target, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy said when launching a consultation on the draft NDC.

South Africa's first NDC, submitted in October 2015, committed to emissions in a range of 398-614 million mt CO2-equivalent for 2025 and 2030.

The Cabinet approved a plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in September 2020.

Emissions rising

South Africa's energy and cement sector CO2 emissions rose from 451.58 million mt in 2015 to 478.61 million mt in 2019, according to Global Carbon Project data, the latest available, making it the 12th largest CO2 emitter by nation.

The country's 7th National GHG Inventory Report, including the latest official data, showed that South Africa's emissions increased by 10.4% between 2000 and 2017 to 482,016.4 Gigagrams of CO2 equivalent (531.33 million mt) after agriculture's role as a sink was taken into account.

Energy emissions, which accounted for 80.1% of South Africa's emissions in 2017, were highest in 2009, after which there was a 3.1% decline to 2011, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment said 24 August when releasing the official data. A 1.5% year-on-year increase was seen in just 2017 emissions from the energy sector, it said.

Some 87% of Africa's CO2 emissions are produced by 10 countries, with South Africa accounting for 35.6% of the continent's emissions, even though it only accounts for 4.6% of the population, according to a February 2021 paper by University of California, Irvine academics Lacour Ayompe, Steven Davis, and Benis Egoh.

South Africa's generation stack is dominated by coal, accounting for 85% in 2019, according to IHS Markit data. South Africa produced 258.9 million mt of coal in 2019, according to Minerals Council South Africa, good for seventh in the global rankings.

The draft NDC acknowledges South Africa's key emissions challenge through 2030 will be the transition in the electricity sector, and addressing the economic and social consequences resulting from this transition in coal-producing areas.

The long-term decarbonization of the South African economy, the draft NDC noted, will see a deeper transition take place in the electricity sector in the 2030s, coupled with a shift in the transport sector towards low emission vehicles. The 2040s and beyond will be characterized by the decarbonization of the hard-to-mitigate sectors, it added.


As part of the generation sector transformation, the South African government has been issuing renewable electricity-focused requests for proposals (RFPs).

The latest RFP attracted 102 bids from potential project developers, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) data revealed in late August. The 2.6-GW RFP was the fifth phase of the government's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, now in its 10th year.

Of the 102 bids in the latest RFP, 63 involve solar photovoltaic (PV) projects and 39 are onshore wind proposals, the data show. The DMRE declined to comment 23 August when Net-Zero Business Daily inquired about how much combined capacity was submitted into the tender.

IHS Markit expects 560 MW of new South African utility-scale solar PV additions on average annually through 2050 and 700 MW a year of new wind installations, along with more than 400 MW a year of residential and small commercial systems.

The South African renewable generation push will not be unique in Africa. IHS Markit expects renewables to account for at least 35% of the continent's generation stack by 2050.

Such changes are necessary because climate change affects Africa, especially Sub-Saharan nations, disproportionately.

Five out of the top 10 nations affected by climate change are in Africa, Kamissa Camara, the ex-foreign affairs minister of Mali, told a Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) webinar 14 September.

Citing African Development Bank figures, Camara noted that the impact of climate change on Africa will be $60 billion a year by 2040, and, as a result, African economies will only achieve 40% of their potential for the period.

Outside funding needed

However, the money required to fight global warming is not always available domestically, or from international backers.

Emerging market countries don't have the financial heft, be that from multilateral agencies, private investors, or through capital markets, Fergus McCormick, Director of Sovereign Research, Emerging Markets Investors Alliance told a 21 September Barings webinar.

Some multilateral help is coming, McCormick told attendees of the New York Climate Week event. In August, the International Monetary Fund made $650 billion in special drawing rights available, its largest allocation, with about $275 billion for emerging and developing nations, it said.

On a smaller scale, the Africa Finance Corporation said 14 September it plans to raise $2 billion over the coming three years for direct investment in infrastructure projects across the continent that the multilateral agency sees slowing the impact of climate change.

However, more needs to be done to make sure emerging markets issuers, especially sovereign entities, aren't excluded from green bond markets, Barings Head of Emerging Markets Corporate Debt Omotunde Lawal told webinar attendees.

There should there be more focus on transition bonds for developing nations, said Lawal, and more should be done to make sure such issuers don't get screened out by big asset managers.

While South Africa accessed about $2 billion a year in 2018 and 2019 from international markets, in the draft NDC, Creecy called for access to four times the amount annually by 2030 to meet adaptation and mitigation needs.

In an illustration of the potential disparities between developed and developing nations in bond markets, the UK's first green sovereign bond was launched 21 September, raising £10 billion ($13.6 billion). Amid strong investor appetite, the bond will be issued 22 September. A further £5 billion gilt, as UK sovereign bonds are known, will be issued in "mid to late October," the UK Debt Management Office said.

Posted 21 September 2021 by Keiron Greenhalgh, Senior Editor


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