Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Before the climate summit, South Africa adopts a more aggressive emissions target

September 29, 2021

South Africa cabinet has approved a more aggressive emissions reduction target ahead of a UN climate meeting in November, according to the country’s environment department. By 2030, Africa’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases wants to keep emissions between 350 and 420 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This compares to an earlier draught target of 398-440 Mt CO2e set by the environment department in March, which was recommended for improvement by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s climate commission. South Africa is estimated to have emitted roughly 480 Mt CO2e in 2019, according to the Global Carbon Atlas.

The revised objective will be included in a “Nationally Determined Contribution” that will be submitted in the run-up to the United Nations’ COP26 meeting in Glasgow. In a statement, the environment department said, “The NDC represents South Africa’s commitment to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.” State-owned power utility Eskom, which burns coal to create the vast majority of the country’s electricity, and fuel and chemical producer Sasol are also important polluters in South Africa.

Ramaphosa, who took office as president in February 2018, has promised to take swifter action to tackle climate change and has proposed policies geared at embracing renewable energy generation. Eskom is seeking billions of dollars to assist pay its plans to transition away from coal and toward renewable energy. It intends to announce a finance agreement at COP26, and is in talks with the US, UK, France, and Germany, as well as the World Bank, concerning funds.

Following investor and environmental pressure, Sasol announced on Wednesday that it has improved its 2030 emissions reduction objective. At the same time, the cabinet approved the submission to parliament of the National Climate Change Bill, a critical piece of legislation that will allow government organisations to implement climate-related policies. A nuclear research reactor was also approved for replacement.