South Africa Checkup

South Africa—Falling Behind

The South African government has not made much progress in promulgating legislation to tackle carbon emissions. Its most important policy instrument—the carbon tax—has been on the table for a decade. No date is set for its implementation. South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, is the largest CO2 emitter in the country, because it is so coal intensive. Once its latest coal-fired power station (named Medupi) is completed, it will release more carbon than the whole of Kenya.

A prominent scientific research body concluded that South Africa could ‘decarbonize its electricity sector without pain’ as ‘clean and cheap are no longer trade-offs’. However, the Department of Energy has come under criticism for seemingly inflating the costs of renewable energy and their belief that a rapid shift to renewables will collapse the energy grid.

On September 25, 2015, South Africa submitted its INDC, which included a target of reducing GHG emissions to between 398 and 615 MtCO2e, over the period 2025 to 2030. South Africa ratified the Paris Agreement on November 1, 2016. The country’s INDC is consistent with its pledge under the Copenhagen Accord, which proposes emissions reductions below business-as-usual (BAU) levels by 34% in 2020 and 42% in 2025.
Notwithstanding that the South African INDC assumes the finalization of an ‘ambitious, fair, effective and binding’ multilateral agreement under the UNFCCC at COP21, it also highlights that economic and social development and poverty eradication are South Africa’s top priorities. However, South Africa’s commitment could be considered as ‘inadequate’ in reaching the 2°C pathway. Although South Africa is a developing country, it has comparatively high emissions per capita. Consequently, the country’s emissions reduction target should be strengthened.

Because of South Africa’s very slow pace in implementing a domestic carbon tax and aggressively pursuing renewable energy programs, it is ranked as ‘standing still’. There is clearly a lot of work that remains to be done.

Learn More

South Africa’s INDC is available at:
The Climate Action Tracker rankings are available at, accessed 29 March 2017.
See: Sipho Kings ‘Greening the Future 2017: How you can save the world’ at
See David Hallows ‘Death and destruction: What’s left out of energy planning’ at

South Africa Emission Reduction Policy

The Draft Carbon Tax Bill

The proposal for a carbon tax in South Africa was first made in 2007. After lengthy public consultation processes and debates, the National Treasury introduced the Carbon Tax Bill in 2015. The implementation of the Bill has been delayed numerous times. It was set to come into effect during 2017, but it is likely that further delays might ensue.

The Bill is designed to encourage emission-reduction activities in certain sectors, through placing a price on carbon. This price on carbon acts as a signal that incentivizes behavioral change and makes emission reduction projects more attractive. The planned carbon tax is aimed at achieving South Africa’s ambitious Paris Agreement commitments to reduce GHG emissions by 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025.
It is anticipated that the carbon tax will come into effect in a phased manner at a marginal rate of R120 per ton CO2 emissions. Persons who conduct various activities in the manufacturing, construction, mining and transport sectors will be affected. It will likely be implemented with complementary measures, for example a reduction in the electricity levy, and carbon offsets which firms can use to reduce their carbon tax liability.

Learn More

The Carbon Tax Discussion Paper can be read at:

The Draft Carbon Tax Bill is available at:

South Africa Extreme Weather Event

Severe Country-Wide Drought

The current drought, which started in the summer of 2014, is the third-driest for South Africa as a whole since the early 1930s when the country was hit by a historic drought in the midst of the Great Depression. The severity of the current drought has been aggravated by an El Nino, a weather pattern which decreases moisture in the sub-Saharan region.

Many financial hubs in the country, including Cape Town and Johannesburg, had to impose water restrictions on residents. Dry conditions last year cut South Africa’s maize crop by a third. South African livestock farmers were urged by the government to cut the size of their herds as drought conditions suck moisture out of grazing land.


The continued low rainfall resulted in very dry conditions with drought being reported in all nine provinces of the country. As a result, eight of the provinces were declared as disaster areas, thereby authorising the release of crucial funds to assist farmers. However, it recently came to light in Parliament that more than R380 million (about US$28.6 million) which could have been used to assist farmers during the drought, has not been spent. This is due to mismanagement by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which had not informed any stakeholders that the money was still available.

Other support provided to affected communities and farmers included the identification of land for relocation of livestock‚ revitalisation of feedlots‚ auction sales of livestock‚ provision of feed and water for livestock‚ support to small-holder farmers and sugar cane farmers and the creation of firebreaks. Fodder banks were established in rural areas and animal feed was delivered to farmers as part of efforts to maintain livestock.

On March 5, 2017, the mayor declared the City of Cape Town a disaster area, in order to respond more rapidly by mobilising staff and resources to deal with the crisis. The city’s dwindling water supply is predicted to run out in little more than 100 days if dam levels and water consumption remain unchanged. The critically low water supply was further put under pressure by wildfires in the Western Cape area, caused by the dry and windy summer season.

Future Actions

South Africa is a water-stressed country and is on an economic growth pathway that is very water intensive. In order to meet the increased water and food demands of a growing population, a collective effort by government, farmers and private industry is required. We have to learn best-practices from other drought-challenged countries in adapting to the ever-worsening weather conditions.

Learn More

For ongoing updates on the current drought in South Africa, see:

The South African Water Research Commission supports sustainable water development:

The Weather Service provides information on the types of droughts that South Africa experiences:

To understand more about the impact of the current drought on the South African economy, see:

South Africa Subnational Best Practices


KwaZulu-Natal—The Durban Adaptation Charter (DAC) commits Local Governments to local climate action in their jurisdiction that will assist their communities to respond to and cope with climate change risks. By signing the Durban Adaptation Charter they commit to inter alia:
1.    Key information of all local government development planning;
2.    Ensuring that adaptation strategies are aligned with mitigation strategies;
3.    Promoting the use of adaptation that recognizes the needs of vulnerable communities and ensuring sustainable local economic development;
4.    Prioritizing the role of functioning ecosystems as core municipal green infrastructure;
5.    Seeking innovative funding mechanisms.

To aid in the implementation of the DAC, a Central KwaZulu-Natal Climate Change Compact (CKZNCCC) was formed to facilitate information sharing and collaboration on climate change adaptation projects. As the metropolitan, district and local municipalities of central KwaZulu-Natal are signatories to the Durban Adaptation Charter they have committed themselves to take local climate action in their jurisdiction.

Dr. Sean O’Donoghue
Telephone: +27 31 322 4304

Gauteng—The Gauteng Climate Adaptation Forum is an avenue for cities in the province to hone their skills and cross-pollinate ideas in climate change adaptation for sustainable development and the wellbeing of their residents. The focus is especially on the urban poor (such as residents of informal settlements) who bear the brunt of climate change in developing countries. The forum also aims to promote coordination of climate change issues amongst institutions.

The forum provides a platform for sharing experiences, practical approaches and frameworks relating to climate change adaptation. Membership includes representatives from civil society, government, parastatals, academia and business.

Rina Taviv
Telephone: +27 11 240 2700



Cape Town—Atlantis is a town in the City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality and is located in the Western Cape. GreenCape is a  local non-profit organisation which was established in 2010 and aims to unlock the investment potential of green business, technologies and manufacturing.

The GreenCape initiative has undertaken the project management on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town in the application for the designation of a GreenTech Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Atlantis. The term ‘Greentech’ refers to low-carbon and resource-efficient technologies. This SEZ has the potential to create 2,500 direct jobs, while also contributing to environmental efforts. For companies operating within an SEZ, significant tax breaks are offered.

Telephone: +27 21 811 0250

South Africa Leaders and Opponents

Government Official
Dr. Edna Molewa
Minister of Environmental Affairs

The Department of Environmental Affairs, under the leadership of Minister Molewa, was the main architect of South Africa’s leading climate change policy document, the National Climate Change Response Policy White Paper, launched in 2011. Minister Molewa signed the Paris Agreement at the United Nations in New York on 22 April 2016, on behalf of the South African Government.

Her pragmatic approach to climate change adaptation is laudable. One example of her no-nonsense attitude is where she stated (when South Africa ratified the Paris Agreement on 2 November 2016), that, “it was clear that the only choice for humanity is to take ambitious and practical action, through reducing greenhouse gas emissions, preparing for extreme events, and adapting to the impacts of climate change.”

Contact:  (Chief of Staff)

Climate Program Advocate
Adv Andrew Gilder
Senior Associate at ENSafrica Law Firm

Andrew Gilder is an admitted attorney of the South African High Court and specializes in carbon markets and climate change law and policy. He serves on various environmental associations. Related to his work on climate change, Andrew is involved in air quality legal issues in South Africa and the operationalization of the National Environmental Management: Air Quality Act, as well as the domestic legal regime for power generation. He regularly presents at climate conferences and seminars, and recently urged the East African community to invest in projects aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.


Climate Program Opponent
Mr. Ivo Vegter
Independent Columnist

Ivo is an outspoken environmental journalist and the author of Extreme Environment, a book on ‘environmental exaggeration and how it harms emerging economies’. He has written controversial columns on climate change, e.g. ‘Paris Climate Conference is a waste of time and money’ and he views climate change as ‘pseudo-science’.


South Africa Leading Research Study

Research Study:  “The Long Term Mitigation Scenarios Research Project”, South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, coordinated by Professor Harold Winkler, 2005 and 2008

The Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS) Research Project took place in South Africa between 2005 and 2008. It is remembered as a ‘seminal and resounding success’, because it successfully placed climate change mitigation on the formal domestic policy agenda. The LTMS project was a Cabinet-mandated process led by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEA).

At a technical level, LTMS was a unique blend of facilitated stakeholder process and rigorous research. It was implemented using a scenario-building team, composed of strategic thinkers from government, business and civil society. The scenario team was informed by four research groups, coordinated by Professor Harald Winkler of the Energy Research Centre (ERC) at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The credibility of the study came from the robustness of data and analysis. The study drew on strong local academic institutions and stakeholder engagement. At the time there was limited experience of analyzing national mitigation options. However, it was recognized that key to the success of the LTMS was its use of a process to accumulate information on available options, analyze them in a consultative way and to present the results in such a manner as to be helpful to policy makers.

The LTMS approach drew on international best practice, notably a report written by the United Nations, titled Economics of Greenhouse Gas Limitation: Technical Guidelines.

The LTMS answered a highly relevant question at the time when little was known about the scale of the climate change problem in South Africa and the options to address it. A broad technical research team was established, consisting of about 30 researchers from different institutions. This broad collaborative approach provided the best available scientific data on energy, emissions and economic impacts. The research teams gathered large amounts of data to conduct modeling and assessments. The LTMS developed national and sub-national adaptation scenarios for South Africa under plausible future climate conditions and development pathways. The LTMS was the first interpretation of international climate mitigation policy in a domestic developing country context.

The LTMS team explored a wide range of detailed mitigation actions and proposals for four strategic options that South Africa can pursue. The LTMS process design centered around two ‘outer’ scenarios, called ‘envelopes’. The first is the Growth Without Constraints (GWC) Scenario, which is a ‘no action’ scenario with a projection that GHG emissions will rise dramatically. The fourth scenario is purely notional, showing what would happen if we restrained the economy towards an emission target required by climate science in order to stabilize the climate—known as the Required by Science (RBS) scenario. To address the gap between the GWC and RBS scenarios, the researchers identified technology, market and policy actions which could be implemented by government. These second and third scenarios comprised the current development plans to increase growth, but with some emission reduction efforts. Refer to Figure 1 for a depiction of the scenarios.

Figure 1: The gap in GHG emissions in the four scenarios


Source: Case studies available at:

Unfortunately, almost a decade later, it is apparent that the LTMS was not successfully integrated into the policy agenda of departments other than its champion, the DEA. Another limiting factor is that the LTMS occurred in a time of a ‘domestic policy vacuum’, which resulted in a lack of momentum to sustain its implementation. It should also be borne in mind that South Africa’s economy is very reliant upon coal based energy and energy-intensive mineral extraction. This arguably causes powerful push-back and resistance towards proposals for a low carbon transition.

Learn More

Mitigation Action Plans and Scenarios (MAPS) is a collaboration amongst developing countries to establish the evidence base for long-term transition to robust economies that are both carbon efficient and climate resilient. See:

For a summary of the various phases of the LTMS research project, visit:

The detailed technical report comprising the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios which was prepared for the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism in 2007 is available at:

The National Climate Change Response Policy White Paper (NCCRP) is available at:

For more in-depth reports related to energy and the LTMS, see UCT’s Energy Research Centre documents at:

South Africa Emissions Reduction Policy

South Africa: National Climate Change Response Policy White Paper (NCCRP)

South Africa launched its National Climate Change Response Policy White Paper (NCCRP) in 2011, prior to hosting the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban.

The NCCRP was approved by its Cabinet in October 2011 (Gazette No. 34695, Notice No. 757, 19 October 2011). This White Paper is South Africa’s first policy focusing specifically on climate change

The White Paper represents the culmination of an iterative and participatory policy development process that was started in October 2005. The White Paper is founded on section 24 of the Constitution protecting the right to a healthy environment, and supporting the objectives of the National Environmental Management Plan (NEMA), the National Development Plan and international instruments to which South Africa has agreed, such as the Millennium Declaration and the UNFCCC.

The Department of Environmental Affairs delivered presentations on the developments that lead toward the NCCRP and on the strategies outlined in the policy. South Africa had signed the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. Subsequently, in 2005, a ground-breaking climate change conference was held which yielded a Long-Term Mitigation Scenarios process. This process outlined two major scenarios: growth without constraints and required by science and then modeled the results of different strategies to close the gap between the two scenarios. Carbon pricing was found to be the most effective strategy overall. A draft Green Paper was published in November 2010 and went through a wide consultative process with stakeholder participation and review which saw 4,000 issues raised. The White Paper was published on 19 October 2011.

The NCCRP provides an overarching policy framework for facilitating a just transition to a low carbon, climate resilient economy. It presents the South African government’s vision for an effective climate change response and has two objectives:

  • Effectively manage climate change impacts through interventions that build and sustain South Africa’s social, economic and environmental resilience and emergency response capacity; and
  • Contribute fairly to the global effort of stabilizing GHG concentrations.

The policy provides for the use of incentives and disincentives (or penalties), including regulatory, economic and fiscal measures.

To monitor the success of responses to climate change and to replicate those that will be proven to work well, Environmental Minister Edna Molewa said there was the need to measure the cost, outcome and impact of such responses. To that end, a Climate Change Response Measurement and Evaluation System (MRV) was formulated. The NCCRP frames MRV in terms of ‘Monitoring and Evaluation’, which is a function established in the Presidency, headed by a Minister in the highest political office.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) was the main architect of this policy framework, with support from various industries and stakeholders.

It could be argued that the driving force pushing South Africa into renewable energy policies was not a result of a major commitment to addressing the issues of climate change. Rather, the change in the renewable energy policy debate was triggered by a crisis in the supply of electricity. This was a result of the load shedding (or rolling blackouts) initiated by the power utility, Eskom, in 2008 and again in 2014.

Notwithstanding that production costs of non-renewable energy fall each year, renewable energy in South Africa still requires an enabling environment to become even more competitive relative to traditional energy sources. In its White Paper on the Renewable Energy Policy, the South African government recognizes that the development of fiscal, financial, and legislative instruments will be required to stimulate the increased use of renewable energy technologies. One such fiscal instrument is South Africa’s proposed carbon tax, which is likely to come into effect during 2017 (although further delays could ensue).

Learn More

The NCCRP is available at:
For more background on climate change in South Africa and some measures to promote environmental sustainability, see,%20energy%20and%20the%20environment%20workshop.pdf
For a discussion of the political economy of renewable energy in South Africa, read
To learn more about South Africa’s approaches to measuring, reporting and verifying, see
The White Paper on the Renewable Energy Policy of the Republic of South Africa is available at:
For a brief account of the launch of the NCCRP, see

South Africa Energy Production Trends

How The Energy System Is Structured

The South Africa Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Energy Regulator (NERSA) are the two leading agencies that help frame and implement government energy policy.

The Department of Energy (DoE) is mandated to ensure the secure and sustainable provision of energy for socioeconomic development. The Department produces an integrated energy plan, regulates the energy industries, and promotes investment in accordance with the integrated resource plan. The Department’s strategic goals are to:

  • ensure that energy supply is secure and demand is well managed;
  • facilitate an efficient, competitive, and responsive energy infrastructure network;
  • ensure that there is improved energy regulation and competition;
  • ensure that there is an efficient and diverse energy mix for universal access within a transformed energy sector;
  • ensure that environmental assets and natural resources are protected and continually enhanced by cleaner energy technologies;
  • implement policies that adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change; and
  • implement good corporate governance for effective and efficient service delivery.

The DoE places emphasis on broadening electricity supply technologies to include gas and imports, as well as nuclear, biomass and renewable energy resources (wind, solar, and hydro), to meet the country’s future electricity needs and reduce its carbon dioxide emissions.

Goals beyond 2020 include contracting more than 20,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy, including an increasing share from regional hydro-electricity.

The National Energy Regulator (NERSA) is mandated to regulate the electricity, piped-gas, and petroleum pipeline industries. NERSA’s responsibilities include:

  • issuing licences and setting pertinent conditions;
  • setting and/or approving tariffs and prices;
  • monitoring and enforcing compliance with licence conditions;
  • dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration, and the handling of complaints;
  • gathering, storing, and disseminating industry information;
  • setting rules, guidelines, and codes for the regulation of the three industries;
  • determination of conditions of supply and applicable standards; and
  • the registration of import and production activities.

The National Strategic Fuels Stock Policy sets the framework for the storage of fuel stock by the government and by industry. It aims to ensure an uninterrupted supply of petroleum products throughout South Africa by providing adequate strategic stocks and infrastructure, such as storage facilities and pipeline capacity. Strategic stocks are to be used during declared emergencies. The Minister of Energy has the power to decide when a shortage of fuel and oil warrants an emergency.

The National Development Plan (NDP) envisages that by 2030, South Africa will have an adequate enough supply of electricity and liquid fuels to ensure that economic activity and welfare are not disrupted and that at least 95% of the population will have access to grid or off-grid electricity.

The plan proposes that gas and other renewable resources like wind, solar, and hydro-electricity will be viable alternatives to coal and will supply at least 20,000 MW of the additional 29,000 MW of electricity needed by 2030.

Other recommendations in the plan include diversifying power sources and ownership in the electricity sector, supporting cleaner coal technologies, and investing in human and physical capital in the 12 largest electricity distributors.

Sources of Energy

With abundant coal supplies, South Africa meets around 74% of its energy needs through coal. While it is largely used to generate electricity, a significant amount is channelled to synthetic fuel and petrochemical operations. Around 28% of coal production is exported.

South Africa supplies two-thirds of Africa’s electricity and is one of the four cheapest electricity producers in the world. Almost 90% of South Africa’s electricity is generated in coal-fired power stations. Koeberg, a large nuclear station near Cape Town, provides about 5% of capacity. A further 5% is provided by hydroelectric and pumped storage schemes. In South Africa there are few, if any, new economic hydro sites that could be developed to deliver significant amounts of power.

According to Natural resource accounts: Energy accounts for South Africa, 1995-2001, the total primary energy supply for year 2000 was 74.8% coal; 3.2% nuclear; 1.3% gas; 9.0% oil; 0.1% hydro; and 11.6% renewables. In 2010, according to the U.S Energy Information Administration, coal was 67%; nuclear 2%; gas 2%; oil 19%; hydro less than 1%; and renewable 10%. However, the most recent data (2012) places coal at 69%; nuclear 2.4 %; gas 2.9%; hydro 0.1%; and renewable energy 11%.


Profiles of Leading Energy Companies

ESKOM: Almost 90% of South Africa’s electricity is generated within coal-fired power stations. Generation is dominated by Eskom, the national, wholly state-owned utility which supplies approximately 95% of the country’s electricity. Eskom produces electricity from a variety of sources, including coal, hydro, nuclear, solar, wave, wind power, and pumped storage. Coal dominates the energy supply, covering approximately 77% of the country’s energy needs. The utility generates, transmits, and distributes electricity to industrial, mining, commercial, agricultural, and residential customers and redistributors. According to the 2011 report The Eskom Factor, municipalities and industry dominate Eskom’s sales to customers.


The organizational structure is currently in the process of being revised to incorporate recent appointments and changes. Its generation division maintains a varied portfolio of plants, open cycle gas turbines, hydroelectric, pumped storage, wind, and nuclear units, along with coal-fired plants. Below is its current generation division portfolio.


As 93% of Eskom’s electricity is generated from coal-fired stations, it has a large environmental footprint, with its most topical being its carbon footprint. In 2011, the utility’s CO2 emissions were 230.3Mt, an increase of 2.5% on the previous year’s 224.7Mt. However, Eskom is committed to reducing its footprint by 2030. Despite a potential peak of 283Mt in 2022, it is working towards a reduction to 235Mt by 2030.

Eskom will contribute to this reduction through a comprehensive six step approach that includes supply measures and demand-side interventions.

Eskom’s climate change commitment, the six-point plan, which came out of the 17th United Nations Conference on Climate Change, Durban, South Africa, in 2011:

1. Diversification of the generation mix to lower-carbon-emitting technologies: Eskom states that although the tons of CO2 they emit will increase in the short- to medium-term, they are committed to assessing options to slow the rate of increase, and ultimately to begin decreasing it by reducing the coal energy mix they use (Eskom News Journey: COP17-CMP7, 2011). According to Eskom, their goal is to reduce coal from 88% to 70% by 2025 by increasing nuclear gas, renewables, and hydro components in the energy mix. Plans include increasing the nuclear component by up to 20,000 MW by 2025, and an increase in the renewable component to at least 1,600 MW by 2025.

2. Energy efficiency measures to reduce demand and greenhouse gas and other emissions: Eskom has established an internal energy efficiency program, which seeks to save a billion kilowatt-hours and includes working with consumers to reduce their demand. The short-term target is to save 3,000MW over the next six years and 8,000 by 2025, which equates to about two six-pack coal-fired power stations.

3. Adaptation to negative impacts of climate change: Short-term adaptation measures include the consideration of dry-cooling at power stations, reducing water consumption by approximately 90%. Medium- to long-term considerations include improving the resilience of infrastructure and staff by incorporating adaptation issues into long-term planning and risk mitigation strategies.

4. Innovation through research, demonstration, and development: At present, Eskom has a number of pilot projects which include an underground coal gasification, a System Johansson Gasifier biomass pilot for small-scale applications, the pebble-bed modular reactor, and a 100MW solar thermal plant (Eskom COP 17, 2011).

5. Investment through carbon market mechanism: Eskom participates in and supports the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), using a shadow price for carbon to evaluate all investment decisions and to level the playing field across a variety of technologies.

6. Progress through advocacy, partnerships, and collaboration: Eskom is an active member of the National Committee on Climate Change and also participates in the Long-term Mitigation Scenario process.

Renewable Energy Utilities: Biotherm Energy & Solar Capital

According to the 2014 Climatescope Report, South Africa has the 3rd most attractive renewable energy market in the developing world. BioTherm Energy is Africa’s leading Independent Power Producer (IPP) under the First Round of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme (REIPPP). Solar Capital (a subsidiary of the Phelan Energy Group) won an award in 2013 for the best renewable energy company in Africa.

Biotherm Energy: The African-born utility focuses on wind and solar project development, and currently has four operational projects: (1) Aries Solar PV project; (2) the Konkoosies Solar PV project; (3) the PetroSA Biogas Project; and (4) the Klipheuwel wind project.

Solar Capital: The subsidiary delivers efficient, renewable solar energy projects. Currently, it has two operational projects customered by Eskom: De Aar project 1 and De Aar 3 project 2. Its pipeline projects within the country are Aggenys, Ritchie, Loreisfontein, and De Aar 2.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Monique Classen

South Africa Emission Reduction Challenges

Leading Emission Reduction Challenges: (a) Dependence on fossil fuels as energy sources; (b) Rising consumer and/or industrial demand for energy-intensive products


Current Greenhouse Gas Emission Levels

South Africa faces many challenges when it comes to reducing its GHG emissions. The most challenging remains it’s largely energy dependent economy. The South African economy is dependent on coal for 93% of its electricity generation, an energy-intensive industrial sector, and an energy sector responsible for 82% of total GHG emission (DEA, 2014). According to the latest draft National Greenhouse Gas Inventory that documents South Africa’s GHG emissions profile for the year 2010 and highlights trends for the 2000-2010 period- total GHG emissions have increased nearly 25%. Within the draft it was concluded that the increase in GHG stemmed largely from the energy and waste sectors that have increased from 75.1% to 78.7%, and 2.8% to 3.6% (DEA, 2014, p.68), respectively.


Emission Reduction Challenges

South Africa’s approach to mitigation is informed by two contexts: (1) its contribution as a responsible global citizen to the international effort to curb global emissions; and (2) its successful management of the development and poverty eradication challenges it faces.  With this, energy efficiency measures, the roll out of renewable forms of energy, and also a nuclear energy roll out are being considered as the best options in reducing GHG emissions. There are however major challenges that must be overcome to realize this, including issues of cost, lead times, and the speed with which low carbon options can be established. The historically low cost of electricity means that carbon intensive electricity is cheaper than any other source of power, which makes it difficult for renewable energy and energy efficient options to compete with coal based power. An additional challenge is for the country to identify alternative power sources most suitable for wide spread roll out in the country. For more information, see


Mitigation in the Energy Sector

Development in the energy sector has the biggest influence on GHG emissions. The key policy framework for the energy sector is contained in the 1998 White Paper on Energy, and the subsequent 2003 White Paper on Renewable Energy (DME, 2003). In 2005, the Energy Efficiency Strategy was formulated, which set a target for national improvement in energy efficiency of 12% by 2015 (DME, 2005)—however this was followed by very little implementation. Mitigation options in SA can be divided into three broad categories: (1) energy efficiency; (2) changing the fuel mix (moving to lower-or non-carbon emitting energy sources); and (3) structural changes to the economy which lower the energy intensity of the economy as a whole by shifting economic activity and investment to less energy-intensive sectors (Winkler & Marquand, 2009,p 55). Subsequently, key constraints in achieving implementation of the above can be grouped into three types: (1) markets, (2) institutions, and (3) lack of policy co-ordination. SA does not suffer greatly from a lack of technological capacity as do many other developing countries.  However, it does not pursue all projects with equal political will (Winkler & Marquand, 2009).

Key barriers to the development of energy efficient programs are low coal prices, and the uncertainty about the institutional structure of the electricity sector. There is no clarity under what terms the electricity sector would participate in a national effort to make SA more energy efficient; specifically there is uncertainty about the role that Eskom (the national public electric energy organization) will play.

As of yet, South Africa does not have a carbon tax but there is talk of its introduction within this year. The objective of a carbon tax would be to penalize companies and individuals that emit more carbon, and to reduce harmful GHG emissions. For more information, visit:


Overcoming Constraints

There is potential for international co-operation to assist with the removal of these constraints in the form of finance, technology, and capacity building. It is the view of many scholars that SA should use its own resources to support a range of mitigation options, but assistance on the more expensive options will be most needed if the country is to make a greater contribution to mitigation. A multilateral technology transfer facility can aid SA in promoting the ‘development and climate agenda’, addressing intellectual property rights barriers, accessing multilateral funding for technology development, and developing international technology standards, and research and development protocols (Winkler & Marquand. 2009, p 61). There also is a need for the training of officials and the seconding of experts to key strategic points in government. Although SA has significant technological capacity, external support in implementing certain types of mitigation projects would be useful.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Monique Classen


Useful Resources

DEA (Department of Environmental Affairs). 2013. Greenhouse gas inventory for South Africa 2000-2010. Pretoria, South Africa.

DME (Department of Minerals and Energy), 2003. Integrated Energy Plan for the Republic of South Africa. DME, Pretoria.

DME (Department of Minerals and Energy), 2005. Energy Efficiency Strategy of the Republic of South Africa. March 2005. Pretoria.

Winkler, H. and Marquand, A., 2009. Changing development paths: From an energy-intensive to low-carbon economy in South Africa. Climate and Development, 1(1), pp.47-65.

South Africa Ratification Status

Possibility of Ratification by 2018: High

In December 2015, 195 countries each made a national pledge to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in a United Nations sponsored meeting in Paris. In committing to their pledges, each country signed the Paris Agreement and have agreed to work towards ratification. Signature of the Agreement serves as a commitment to refrain from acts that would defeat the objective and purpose of the Agreement, but signature does not automatically mean that a country becomes party to the Agreement.

Not yet a formal party to the Paris Agreement, South Africa signed the Agreement on April 22 nd 2016, whilst on its way in the implementation thereof. Nevertheless, in addressing the General Assembly in South Africa, Environment Minister Edna Molewa stated that domestic ratification procedures are already underway, in hope that implementation of the Agreement will be initiated in 2020. South Africa is already acting on Climate Change with significant investments in renewable energy, public transport, energy efficiency, waste management and land restoration initiatives. Other initiatives such as the Working for Water, Wetlands and Fire, illustrates South Africa’s efforts in adapting to the impacts of climate change. A further Climate Change Response Policy (1) with clear greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation framework has been implemented which includes a range of measures aimed at achieving national goals reflected in the National Development Plan (2).

As far as the procedures for concluding of international agreements are concerned, there are two types of processes involved, namely where the agreement is to be signed and/or where it is to be ratified. Agreements which require ratification or accession falls within the ambit of section 231(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996. It is for the South African Parliament to approve ratification before implementation of said Agreement, and thereafter be communicated through various channels concluding with the Cabinet, whilst once again returning to Parliament for approval. With this being said, to date, there is no definite or scheduled action plan for the domestication of the Paris Agreement. South Africa has yet to inform both the public and international audiences of their steps in achieving ratification. Legislation, procedures or talk of ratification remains scarce within the media and policy forums, with only the assumption that South Africa’s current mitigation efforts are to continue until further notice.

Concerns for implementation surround South Africa’s administrative and procedural structures. As a start, South Africa requires an analysis of its climate change legal regime, keeping in mind that some domestic legislation and regulations may or may not necessitate adjustment or supplementation in order to be consistent with the procedural requirements of the Paris Agreement. Concerns over the Country’s legislative and regulatory house, in relations to its financial and policy chaos of corruption, inflation and political party tensions needs attention. The need for South Africa to get a handle on this is imperative if it wishes to move forward not only as a country, but also with its Paris Pledge.

Submitted by Climate Scorecard Country Manager Monique Classen

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