South Africa Warns Others Not to Go From Electricity to Darkness

By Bloomberg

Dec 01, 2023

image is BloomburgMedia_S4XPDCT1UM0W01_01-12-2023_08-00-09_638369856000000000.jpg

The Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. Kendal coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

One of the architects of South Africa’s groundbreaking deal with rich nations to move more quickly away from coal sounded a note of caution to other countries considering similar agreements. 

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy urged developing nations to make sure energy security and jobs are prioritized in any arrangement. 

“You can’t go from electricity to darkness,” she said in an interview in Johannesburg on Thursday ahead of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai. “That’s not good for your economy, it’s not good for communities, it’s not good for your development trajectory.”

Pretoria secured a pledge of $8.8 billion in financing from some of the world’s richest nations for a Just Energy Transition Partnership, which requires South Africa to close down some of its coal-fired power plants earlier than planned. 

Several cabinet ministers have said conditions attached to the deal are exacerbating electricity shortages and contributing to the rolling blackouts that have dogged the country for years. 

Nations such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Senegal that have also secured concessional funds must “front-load energy security” before switching to alternate supplies, Creecy said. 

Alternatives should be provided to those whose livelihoods depend on dirty energy facilities, because “you can’t give people a promise that some green jobs will be created somewhere,” she added. 

South Africa is the world’s 14th-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, and it burns coal to generate more than 80% of its electricity. 

An implementation plan for its climate pact, which was first agreed in Glasgow in late 2021, was laid out this month. It will see investment flowing into electricity infrastructure, electric vehicles, developing skills in the green hydrogen industry, support for municipalities and projects in the coal-dependent Mpumalanga province.

Creecy also called for developing nations to provide clarity on the sourcing of public financing that will be provided to developing countries to mitigate against climate change and adapt to it. 

“We are all living through the climate crisis and developing countries, particularly those on the African continent, are becoming severely affected,” she said. While there was an agreement reached at last year’s COP talks to establish a fund to help vulnerable nations with damages from more extreme weather, “it’s far better to build climate resilience in developing countries,” she said. 

Other Highlights:

  • Private money isn’t flowing to developing countries. Now, public finance is very important because it can play a role in de-risking investment needed to respond to climate change.
  • Africa is placing a lot of emphasis on adaptation at the COP28 talks, because historically the “continent has contributed less than 2% to the accumulation of emissions that’s causing the current crisis” but has been badly impacted.
  • “The Paris Agreement recognizes that developed countries have created the climate crisis, it recognizes that developed countries have their accumulated wealth as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, and it recognizes the responsibility of developed countries to contribute to the climate transitions of developing countries.”
  • No one is “seeking to rewrite the Paris Agreement, but we are seeking to get an outcome that is balanced, that has appropriate work around mitigation, around adaptation and around the means of implementation.”

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

By Mike Cohen , Jennifer Zabasajja

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