South Africa pleased with Glasgow climate talks, but knows more work is needed

South Africa is encouraged by the outcome of the climate talks this past weekend in Glasgow.

This was the view of Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, who told a press briefing on Wednesday that South Africa welcomed the outcome of the climate summit.

She said the outcome provided parties with a firm basis for the full and effective implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement.

“The international community has united behind a shared objective to inject a greater sense of urgency to address the global climate crisis and to do so on the basis of international equity and latest available science.” 

She said the complex Glasgow package outcome strikes the right balance to accommodate the very different national circumstances and capacities among nearly 200 parties, so that all are enabled and empowered to contribute their fair share and to enhance their climate ambition.

Creecy believed the outcome would help developing countries like South Africa accelerate the phase down of unfiltered coal to low-carbon energy, but warned it should be done in a manner that takes into consideration national interests and availability of resources.

 

​Coal ‘phase down’ wording

Creecy was referencing the controversial final wording of the Glasgow Pact signed at the end of the two-week COP26 negotiations. A fierce debate erupted among the different parties’ negotiators over the wording of the intention to abandon coal in the final text of the deal. 

In facilitating the Glasgow Pact, nations agreed to change the wording from a coal “phase-out” to a “phase-down”, at the insistence of India, whose backers included China and South Africa. 

Creecy defended the “phase down” language, and said that the wording should take into account countries’ unique circumstances as they shed their coal dependence. 

“There is wording there that talks about the recognition of national circumstances and the importance of a just transition.

“And I think that what that language is all about … is saying that for developing countries, there is a recognition of the enormous cost that transitioning economies to lower carbon growth paths and to climate resilient societies is going to have.”

“I think that there has been an estimation by the OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] that developing countries will require in the region of US$4 trillion over the next 15 years to achieve these transitions.

“And I think that text was really about saying that countries must be transitioning. Like our country, we have to do our fair share. But we have to be transitioning at a manner and at a pace that is determined by our national sovereign interests and by the availability of resources.”

“We can’t be signing up to a situation where we are not ensuring that we have adequate financial support for the transitions that will be taking place,” she said.

Saliem Fakir, the executive director of African Climate Foundation, was buoyed by the fact that coal had finally been addressed in firm language at climate talks. He said South Africa should urge its partners, particularly in India and China, to phase out coal in 20 years. 

“I would say in the outcome of COP26 the big positive is that for the first time in the history of the climate talks we are talking about phasing out coal. Yes, the phasing out of coal is still insufficient and we have to work harder to push our ambitions.”

 

Multibillion-rand watershed climate deal

South Africa’s watershed multibillion-dollar climate finance deal announced in the first week at COP26, still remains one of the highlights of the conference, and is part of the financial support Creecy is calling for in South Africa’s just transition. The deal made South Africa a star performer at the talks, setting the scene for the country to transition away from coal to cleaner forms of energy.

In the historic deal, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union had pledged R131 billion to South Africa over the next three to five years in the form of grants, concessional loans and investment and risk-sharing instruments, including mobilising private sector funding. 

“Of course the cherry on top is the political agreement between South Africa and its developed world partners,” Fakir said. 

“It will also expand to other countries and shows that there's a willingness to consider a just energy transition transaction deal.”

He said Eskom, the presidency and the ministry of environment as well as all the key political players at national government pushed for this deal, and made South Africa the stellar performer.

“Of course the devil is in the details and a lot more work needs to be done,” he said, adding that the presidential climate commission will be pushing hard that the finance is connected with the work that needs to be done to ensure a just transition. 

The deal is attracting a lot of attention and South Africa as an opportunity to really take an increase in quiet diplomacy, Fakir commented. 

“This deal has put us back into the forefront of the climate negotiations.”

 

Push on finance

Fakir said South Africa had provided good leadership on pushing the envelope on finance and it's created a track of work that will enable parties to review the $100 billion climate finance target, to assist vulnerable countries. He said that could be used in ways that can facilitate an increased flow of finance towards Africa.

Creecy also said COP26 set the international community on the right track to addressing the existential challenge of climate change. 

“For the first time the governing bodies of the Convention and Paris Agreement have agreed to the importance of supporting developing countries in financing”

The environment minister said for South Africa the main priorities, as mandated by the Cabinet ahead of COP26, were to secure an ambitious and progressive finance and adaptation package to support African and other developing countries, as well as to complete the Paris Agreement Work Programme. And in this COP26 succeeded, she said. 

The unresolved issue of the recognition of Africa´s Special Needs and Circumstances is kept alive for substantive discussion at the African COP27, to be hosted by Egypt in Sharm el-Sheikh next year.


Glasgow took the world one step closer to winning the war against climate change, but more fervour is needed

The Glasgow climate talks, which concluded over the weekend, have bought the world a step closer to combating the climate crisis. Although COP26 was criticised for not delivering an ambitious enough deal, analysts feel that the talks delivered many positive outcomes.

Developments

  • The big climate deal emerging from the talks is the Glasgow Climate Pact. For the first time in the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change process, specific references were made to phasing down unabated coal power and phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Another success was that parties managed to finalise the Paris Agreement Rulebook, which means that the agreement is now operational and implementable. The big sticking point in finalising the rulebook was the so-called Article 6,  the chapter on carbon credit trading systems, which essentially deals with climate projects that cross national boundaries. Negotiators were able to define how countries trade carbon offsets and how they use non-market-based approaches to cut emissions in other countries.  
  • Another win for Glasgow was that negotiators were able to complete the enhanced transparency framework. This defines the tables, outlines and other formats for the reports, and will enable parties to submit their first biennial transparency reports in 2024. These reports, which were agreed to under the Paris Agreement, will detail their climate actions plans. 

In the closing plenaries, where parties were able to give their final reflections on the talks, many pointed out that though the Glasgow deal was not perfect, they had signed it because they believed it took the negotiations forward. 

Decisions

Other big decisions that were made at COP26 were:

  • That developed countries would double their adaptation finance from 2019 levels, by 2025, and that all parties will have to submit their updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) - their pledge on how much they will cut their emissions - before the next COP.
  • On common time frames, countries agreed to submit new NDCs every five years.  Thus in 2025, NDCs that outline countries' plans with an end date of 2035 will be submitted, and then in 2030 NDCs with an end date of 2040 would be submitted.
  • The Glasgow Pact also established an annual high-level ministerial roundtable on pre-2030 ambition and an annual dialogue to strengthen ocean-based action on climate change.
  • African delegates polled after COP26 concluded felt that the two-year programme of work was progressive, as was a move from five-year reviews of country-by-country submission to an annual review. The annual reviews could assist countries in submitting their 1.5 degree compatible NDCs, delegates believed. 

Needs more work

One of the biggest disappointments was the discussion around loss and damage. Many developing countries lamented the outcome on this subject. Delegates had hoped COP26 would establish a firm financial mechanism to help fund vulnerable countries' loss and damages they would experience as a result of the climate crisis, but wealthy countries remain loath to admit any blame because they fear lawsuits in the future. As a result the loss and damage negotiations were dubbed the Glasgow Dialogue, and this discussion will convene from 2022 to 2024 to find a solution on the divisive topic. Disappointed African delegates said that advanced economies were simply not taking responsibility for their role in loss and damage. 

Where will Glasgow take us?

Saliem Fakir, the executive director of African Climate Foundation, said the agenda for the climate talks in future was going to have to focus on a more integrated approach between adaptation, where countries have to adapt to effects of climate change, and mitigation, where countries have to cut emissions to slow warming. 

“The reason for that is that Africa does need cheaper, cleaner energy. Politically it is important for us to focus on adaptation, but we have to take a more integrated approach to dealing with climate change. We shouldn’t create an artificial divide between adaptation and mitigation.”

Fakir said that coal has finally been addressed in firm language at climate talks, which was a big positive. He said South Africa should urge its partners particularly in India and China to phase out coal in 20 years down the line. 

“I would say in the outcome of COP26 the big positive is that for the first time in the history of the climate talks we are talking about phasing out coal. Yes, the phasing out of coal is still insufficient and we have to work harder to push ambitions. We have to review them on a constant basis every year and we have to push the ambition to greater heights.”


Getting rid of old king coal is not that easy, last hours of talks show

Photo caption: Alok Sharma MP, President of the 26th United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) in a bilateral meeting with the Union Cabinet Minister of Labour and Employment, Environment, Forest and Climate Change in the Government of India, Bhupender Yadav. Picture by Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street

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The Glasgow Pact, struck on Saturday evening at the climate talks in Glasgow, was nearly scuppered in the last hours when countries insisted that coal could still not be phased out. 

A fierce debate erupted among the nation’s negotiators over the wording of an intention to abandon coal in the final text of the deal. In facilitating the Glasgow Pact, nations agreed to change the wording from a coal “phase-out” to a “phase-down”. 

Although the host country the UK had hoped that the Glasgow climate talks would be historic in the sense that it consigned coal to history, the inclusion of coal in the final deal still marked the first time that such a resolution had been made under the UN climate process.

Coal is one of the most damaging greenhouse gases and a main driver of climate change. Getting countries to shed their coal dependence is a critical step in slowing down warming. 

On Saturday it seemed that the UK’s push for coal’s annihilation would succeed, but India’s Environment and Climate Minister Bhupender Yadav delivered a passionate speech, saying that getting rid of coal too fast in developing nations would cause hardship. He also attacked the inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.

“This climate crisis has been caused by unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption,” Yadav said. “The world needs to awaken to this reality. Fossil fuels and their use have enabled parts of the world to attain high levels of wealth and wellbeing.”

India’s plea was supported by China, with South Africa, Nigeria and Venezuela also expressing displeasure at the clause. 

Although COP26 president Alok Sharma was loath to renegotiate the Glasgow Pact’s deal at such a late stage, pressure from the “coal phase down” nations obliged him to make concessions if a deal was to be delivered. The final document would not please everyone, he conceded, but it was far better than no deal.

Apart from the coal sticking point, climate finance also remained one of the issues that had mixed success in Glasgow. What the conference did achieve was to set the table for more aid to help poor countries to fund their decarbonisation pathway. 

South Africa’s watershed multibillion-dollar climate finance deal remained one of the talk’s highlights and could become a template for other countries if its results lived up to the hype. 

Less successful was the plans for a loss-and-damage fund. Rich countries such as the US still fear that agreeing to such a fund could open the door to enormous climate liabilities in the years to come. 

One of the big successes of this year’s talks was that it resolved several outstanding technical issues that had prevented aspects of the 2015 Paris Agreement from coming into operation. These issues, on carbon trading and the “transparency” with which countries monitor and report their emissions, the so-called Article 6, have dogged the annual climate meetings for six years but compromises were finally reached.

Read part 1 of this article. A deal is made: All you need to know about the ‘Glasgow climate pact’


A deal is made: All you need to know about the ‘Glasgow climate pact’

Despite last-minute squabbles over coal’s phasing out, the climate talks at COP26 delivered a deal that has been labeled as keeping the dream of 1.5 degrees alive. 

On Saturday evening COP26 organisers announced that countries had agreed to a climate deal that its backers proclaimed would keep the world within reach of the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees. Although coal emissions were included in The Glasgow Pact there are more fraught nights of talks lying ahead.

The negotiations carried on late into Saturday evening, as governments disagreed over measures of phasing out coal, emission pledges and providing money to the poor world through a loss and damage financial mechanism.

The talks ran nearly 24 hours into overtime, and the extra day delivered its fair share of drama as the agreement was forged. 

Delegates representing 197 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change arrived in Scotland two weeks ago with the Herculean task of strengthening the Paris Agreement of 2015 and forging a deal that would keep the world’s temperature within 1.5 degrees. 

The 1.5 degree goal was the big dream of COP26’s hosts the UK. But countries would have had to go further with emissions-cutting pledges if they wanted to reach the 1.5 degree target, according to the latest independent analysis by Climate Action Tracker. Another analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that climate pledges made so far at COP26 could help limit global warming to 1.8 degrees. 

Many countries simply still can’t afford the cuts to their economy that the 1.5 degrees ask for, while others are terrified of the hardship the cuts will bring to their economies. But they also know that the cuts have to be made to avert a climate crisis. 

In the end there had to be a compromise and what the Glasgow Pact achieved was to keep the dream alive and to force countries to take a hard look at their pledges again. 

The pact fell short of actually getting nations to limit temperatures to 1.5C with their emissions pledges, but it received a commitment from countries to return to the negotiating table next year in Egypt at COP27 with a plan on how they could do better. 

The pact also expects parties to the Paris Agreement to increase their pledges by 2022 instead of in the middle of the decade. It also envisages new Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) or emission pledges specifically on 2030 goals next year, and then NDCs on 2035 goals in 2025.

COP26 president Alok Sharma, who had delivered deep emotional pleas in the last hours of the talks, conceded that the deal was not perfect, but said that history had been made in Glasgow.

COP26 President - Alok Sharma. Photo: Bank of England.

“We can now say with credibility that we have kept 1.5 degrees alive, “ he said. But it will only survive if we keep our promises and translate commitments into rapid action.”

The Economist described COP26 in Glasgow as delivering in three ways: “by changing timetables, by tweaking financing arrangements and by allowing for greater multilateralism.” 

UN secretary-general António Guterre, though pleased that a deal had been struck, said the world was still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe. 

“It is time to go into emergency mode – or our chance of reaching net zero emissions will itself be zero.”

Executive director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, said the pact kept the 1.5C goal only just alive. “But a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.”

Read Part 2: Getting rid of old king coal is not that easy, last hours of talks show.


Part 2: The snail’s pace of a deal on loss and damage at the climate talks

Loss and damage has been one of the hottest discussion points at COP26, with wealthy and vulnerable countries still split on how it needed to be addressed. At the heart of the split is money and how financing will flow to countries most vulnerable to climate change. 

Talks have stretched late into the night to determine what wealthy nations should pay developing countries for the damage they would suffer as a result of climate change.

On Wednesday vulnerable countries at the COP26 climate talks called for stronger commitments on loss and damage finance in response to a draft deal. Both the host country and UN officials were optimistic that draft texts dedicated an “unprecedented” section to loss and damage, but vulnerable nations said it wasn’t enough. 

A day later non-governmental organisations delivered a unanimous plea that finance for loss and damage needed to be a legacy of COP26, driven by a multilateral process based on global solidarity and leadership. 

Developed countries, the organisation said, must uphold their promise of finance and support to the small states that are at risk of losing so much.

Catherine Pettengell, Climate Action Network UK director, said the talks had to deliver on finance for loss and damage now. 

“For too long the most urgent and devastating consequences of climate change have fallen disproportionately on those least responsible for causing climate change.”

For Aïssatou Diouf, climate change advocacy officer for Enda Energie in Senegal, it was disappointing that the conference’s draft text was still lacking finance for loss and damage.

“Loss and damage must be a priority,” said Pelenise Alofa, national coordinator for the Kiribati Climate Action Network. “Not just discussions but concrete, binding commitments that go beyond technical reports and websites and actually help rebuild lives and livelihoods.”

Tina Stege, a Marshall Islands representative, said the summit deal needed to include stronger action to mitigate the loss and damage climate change would cause. 

She said that "loss and damage is too central for us to settle for workshops. We must strengthen action on loss and damage”.

The frustration at the perceived lack of movement on loss and damage is understandable. 

At COP25 in Madrid in 2019 a framework called the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage was established. It promised to provide action and support for vulnerable developing countries, but critics say the Santiago Network was established in name only. Before COP26 it didn’t even have any staff or funding. 

Many critics said the network was just a way to placate parties calling for loss and damage compensation, and that COP25 didn’t actually achieve anything in that space. 

The World Wildlife Fund, in its briefing document before the talks, called for the Santiago Network to become fully operational. 

Even more important for loss and damage activists is a commitment to funding. They want to see wealthy countries contribute to a designated pool of funds that vulnerable communities can use if a climate disaster strikes. 

As the conference entered its last hours, it was still unclear whether it would deliver a final resolution on the issue. 

Read part one here.


Loss and damage: Who should fit the bill for climate change?

Part 1: Inside the fight for climate change: Why vulnerable countries are demanding climate culprits pay up

 

This year’s climate talks in Glasgow have seen the loss and damage issue move to the forefront, as delegates from vulnerable countries demand compensation for harm they can now directly link to wealthy countries’ emissions.

Pacific island nations are among those most at risk from climate change, and they are also some of the most vocal in negotiations involving some form of compensation from the nations they see as responsible for threatening their livelihoods. 

In a speech streamed at the climate talks on Tuesday, Tuvalu's foreign minister Simon Kofe was dressed in a suit and tie at a lectern in the water, the legs of his pants rolled up to his knees as he stood on what used to be dry land.

"We want the big emitters to take action in addressing climate change,” he said. “Look at the global well-being and recognise that we live in an interconnected world. Things you do on one side of the world have an impact on all of us."

Waters around the Pacific island, whose highest point is just 4.5 metres above sea level, are rising about 0.5 centimetres a year – faster than the global average. Like many of its neighbours, Tuvalu is warning that without global action its land will almost certainly be submerged entirely.

Essentially, loss and damage means financial, technical and other assistance from wealthy countries to developing nations. 

Tuvalu is part of a negotiating bloc that has been demanding an outcome on this issue for decades. A mechanism for addressing the problem wasn’t established until a 2013 meeting in Warsaw. But the issue was essentially excluded from the Paris Agreement. Six years later, at COP25, negotiators agreed to establish a network that would deliver technical assistance to countries in need, called the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage. As a result, loss and damage is now a critical part of negotiations, but climate activists are demanding firm progress on the issue. 

South Africa’s official position at the talks includes a stronger push for loss and damage compensation. 

Climate law experts warned this week that a failure to help developing nations cope with climate change could create a threat of legal liability to developed countries such as the US and the EU.

The experts said developing nations seeking loss and damage could use some principles of international law to make a case that wealthy countries, who are essentially responsible for climate change due to their industrialisation in the previous century, had a responsibility to prevent climate loss and damage to those vulnerable countries. And if that responsibility wasn’t met, there was a responsibility of restitution. 

Developing countries have borne the brunt of the devastating impacts of climate change. Because action to stop global warming has been slow, the effects of climate change are already being felt, and losses and damages are increasing. 

For many vulnerable countries climate change is now not a distant issue anymore as they experience dramatic losses and damages in a climate crisis that was not of their own making. 

The problem is that wealthy countries are loath to admit any blame because of the lawsuits they could face in the future if a country such as Tuvalu were to vanish. Thus the negotiations become a game in which wealthier countries try to establish some vehicle of compensation without actually saying mea culpa. 

At the 2015 Paris climate summit, countries signed an agreement on loss and damage that many labeled as weak. Developed countries pushed to include language that specified it did not "provide a basis for any liability”. The fear is that they would have to pay up every time a disaster hit.

Read part two here.


PART 2: The combustion engine is dead, long live the electric vehicle… and future business

South Africa’s car manufacturers will have to adapt to the green revolution if they want to remain competitive in a global market that is increasingly shunning fossil fuels. This means instead of producing carbon-emitting internal combustion engines they will have to switch their product lines to electric vehicles. 

This week at the climate talks in Scotland, 23 governments pledged to work towards all sales of new cars and vans being zero-emission by 2040, and by 2035 in leading markets. The commitment, which is not yet legally binding and is not yet supported by governments in large auto markets like the US, China and Germany, is backed by 11 car manufacturers — including Ford, GM and Volvo — which are targeting 100% zero-emission new car and van sales in leading markets by 2035 or earlier. 

The declaration classes “zero-emission” as a vehicle that produces no greenhouse gas emissions at the tailpipe.

The latest pledge means that the days of internal combustion engines are numbered, and South Africa’s car manufacturing sector will have to change with the times. The sector has been a boon to the South African economy for many years, but it will not be able to manufacture internal combustion engines for much longer. 

Investment bank Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) warned South African vehicle manufacturers earlier this month they would have to decarbonise or lose their lucrative  European Union export market access.  

The South African government would also be wise to boost export incentives to encourage car companies to retool their local factories for electric car production, the bank said in an investment statement.

“It’s clear from the Automotive Green Paper launched earlier this year  that the stated goal is for South Africa needing to kickstart and accelerate the production of electric vehicles,”said Simon Woodward, automotive sector head at RMB.

 RMB said the move to electric vehicles was a “no-brainer” for South Africa. It explained in the investment note that the EU and the UK planned to ban imports of vehicles powered by carbon-emitting internal combustion engines by 2030.

This will limit access to two of South Africa’s biggest export markets for locally manufactured vehicles, which meant there was an urgent need for added investment to shift to electric vehicle manufacturing in South Africa.

“It is important to note that the potential impact of not making these investments may have dire consequences for our export-led car sector, which is the envy of many globally,” said Woodward.

The UK has been South Africa’s automotive industry’s industry’s top export destination for since 2014, and in 2020 three out of every four South African-manufactured vehicle exports were destined for European Union countries.

Woodward noted the South Africa government’s interest in electric vehicles, saying there seemed to be a recognition of the need to modify existing manufacturing plants to produce hybrid and then ultimately electric vehicles. Manufacturers are already making the switch. 

“What has been pleasing to see is that some local manufacturers have already secured investment and adapted domestic production plants to ensure the flexibility to produce vehicles with alternative powertrains – the components that generate the power – to internal combustion engines, ” Woodward said. 

At the end of October Toyota South Africa unveiled the first hybrid vehicle manufactured commercially in South Africa. The Corolla Cross production line was officially launched at its assembly plant in Prospecton in KwaZulu-Natal. 

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa said at the ceremony at the Toyota plant that South Africa’s climate action plan leaned heavily on electric vehicles for future development, and that the Cross was a step in that direction

The launch represented "more than just a vehicle coming off an assembly line", Ramahosa said. It was an important step in South Africa's path to transforming the automotive manufacturing business into a "green energy success story".

The Cross has a combined internal-combustion engine and electric motor and is Toyota's first hybrid electric vehicle. Toyota South Africa also produces its signature Hilux and Fortuner vehicles at the Prospecton assembly plant.

The KwaZulu-Natal plant is able to produce 111 Corolla Cross vehicles a day, or about 30,000 units a year, for export to more than 40 countries. 

"I applaud Toyota for its courage and vote of confidence by pledging this investment already at the investment conference in 2019. Japan remains a long-term investor in SA," said Ramaphosa. 

"It is also important for the green economy and skills development in the country as well as driving our industrialisation process.” 

He praised the new production line, emphasising its significance for the South African economy and the thousands of jobs Toyota supports.

He said it was significant that South Africa was one of seven global locations chosen for the production of the Corolla Cross.

Read part one here.


South Africa is on the cusp of an electric vehicle revolution

Part 1: The future of South Africa’s roads is electric

 

South Africa’s plans to transition to a clean green economy, means that the days of combustion engines on South Africa’s roads are numbered. Although it seems impossible, with the good old engine that has been carting people around for more than 100 years still thriving on the country’s roads, climate legislation will force motor manufacturers to change to electric vehicles. 

South Africa is not immune from the change. In fact, the South Africa government has decided to embrace electric vehicles in its transition plan, including it as one of its three key priorities for climate action. The other pillars of the climate plan include reducing carbon emissions at Eskom by shutting down ageing power plants and fast-tracking plans for a green-hydrogen economy.

In a two-part series we look at how the switch to electric vehicles will change South Africa’s roads and, in the second instalment, how crucial it is for South Africa’s car manufacturers to adapt to the green revolution if they want to remain competitive in a global market that is increasingly shunning fossil fuels. 

The South African government plans to invest heavily in the electric vehicle industry as part of its plans to decarbonise its economy, and its draft paper on a road map for increased production of fully electric vehicles will be presented to potential investors to attract climate funding. 

The government hoped that the strategy would boost investment, because investors disengaged from fossil fuels, even in the transport sector. 

At the end of 2019, statistics showed that there were only 1,100 electric vehicles on South Africa’s roads. But in 2020, in a poll by car magazine Autotrader, almost 70% of South Africans who took part indicated that they were keen to buy an electric vehicle. 

Simon Woodward, automotive sector head at investment bank RMB, warned that South Africans still had to fork out much more for an electric vehicle than a similar combustion engine model. 

Woodward says RMB had seen better collaboration between private entities and car manufacturers to expand charging stations in South Africa, and to make the changing stations compatible. Developing the domestic electric vehicle market was crucial in the electric vehicle climate plan, he said. 

The switch had happened, he said, with sales information showing that electric vehicles sales had increased from a few hundred a year to more than 10 000 a year. 

“A good starting point to boost sales would be for the government to consider tax incentives for the purchase of new, domestically produced electric vehicles. The current import tax regime for these vehicles is punitive and adds tens of thousands of rands to the cost of even the most basic electric  vehicle,” Woodward said. 

But the sales needed to shoot up to hundreds of thousands to make a difference.

If fleet car operators and the government would add electric  vehicles to their respective fleets, it would boost consumers’ confidence to join the early adopters. 

Retailer Woolworths tweeted this week that it  was testing electric vehicles as part of its delivery fleet.  But the current  lack of charging stations in and between cities and towns in South Africa, remained a challenge  

Woodward said car manufacturers were considering funding a company that builds and operates electric vehicle charging stations nationally to vastly increase the charging network. 

“This does appear to be imminent.”

Consumers were also sceptical on whether South Africa’s constant loadshedding would allow them to charge their vehicles in their homes.

“While this causes inconvenience for consumers, we do know that most cars will be charged overnight and between bouts of power outages,” Woodward said.

“This is an understandable worry which needs to be overcome. A potential solution could involve the coupling of incentives by car manufacturers and the government so that new electric  cars were sold with photovoltaic solar solutions - like solar panels. These would help homes become less reliant on the grid, ensuring a more reliable power supply,” he said. 

Read part two here.


South Africa’s watershed $8.5-billion climate finance: Eskom to get the lion’s share

Eskom will receive the lion’s share of the watershed multibillion-dollar climate finance deal, announced at the climate talks in Glasgow.

The deal, which was lauded last week at the COP26 summit, saw France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union pledge R131 billion ($8.5 billion) to South Africa over the next three to five years in the form of grants, concessional loans and investment and risk-sharing instruments, including mobilising private sector funding.

Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said at a press conference in South Africa on Wednesday that the majority of the funding would be used to finance Eskom’s just transition. The details of the agreement still had to finalised so De Ruyter could not specify exactly how much would be allocated to Eskom. 

South Africa’s head of climate finance and innovation at the Presidential Climate Commission, Dipak Patel, said the deal was a starting point for South Africa’s journey towards decarbonisation. 

Speaking at COP26, Patel said South Africa would use the funds to become self-fulfilling and self-generating.

De Ruyter explained that the state utility’s just transition meant that the process to retire its ageing fleet would be fast-tracked. But it also meant that Eskom would review how it could repurpose old coal power plants to fit into a new green economy, where the old coal workers would not be sidelined. 

Some of the money would go towards building new clean energy plants and to reskilling the workers of old to work in these new plants. De Ruyter explained that the climate finance announced was crucial for new green plants, which will ensure South Africa generates enough electricity to power its economy. 

Eskom has to start switching off coal plants that produce about 8 000 MW of power in the next nine years, because those plants had aged too much to be refurbished again. After 2035 Eskom will have to switch off another 10 000 MW worth of infrastructure that will also become too old and expensive to maintain. 

Thus it was critical that South Africa started investing in new clean energy technologies as soon as possible. 

De Ruyter warned that it would cost billions to ensure that South Africa had adequate clean power generation in future, but he insisted that it could be done. 

Apart from funding Eskom’s transition, South Africa will also use the funds to build a green hydrogen sector and help shift the nation’s transportation to electric vehicles.

Patel said the $8.5 billion was not the sum total of contribution of what South Africa expected from the developed world. He said rich countries needed to make the necessary contributions to a just transition. 

He was adamant that a just transition had to address the negative impact that would be felt by workers, communities, and small and medium businesses operating in the coal chain.

The initial $8.5 billion would overcome the initial inertia, and enable South Africa to get moving on its transition, Patel said. 


Part 2: Report shows companies have to do better to boost inclusiveness in their energy transition

Only a minority of companies are engaged with a “just” transition, if they are undertaking a low-carbon transition at all.

This is according to the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) Just Transition Assessment report, which was launched at the climate talks in Glasgow. 

WBA’s assessment covered 180 companies across three sectors. About 100 oil and gas companies, 50 electric utilities and 30 automotive manufacturers were featured in the report. The alliance’s assessments look at the social elements of the companies’ transition to a low-carbon future, based on the companies’ publicly available disclosures.

The companies in the report packed an economic punch, with an estimated collective revenue of more than US$7.5 billion and directly employing more than 11.5 million people. 

The WBA warned that urgent attention from these companies and the policymakers involved was needed. 

“Without concerted effort to bring people along as part of the decarbonisation transformation, it isn’t just workers and local communities that will suffer and be left behind; the entire transformation is at risk of being undermined by civil unrest among workers and communities whose livelihoods are threatened,” the report stated. 

It said a just transition envisions resilient and thriving workers and communities carrying out green and decent jobs, while limiting the global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels in line with the Paris Agreement.

It warned that t​he transition to a green economy will look different for each industry, yet the fundamentals of a just transition transcend individual industries. 

“At its foundation, a just transition can only be realised through social dialogue. At an industry and enterprise level, this must include meaningful negotiation between, at a minimum, employers and their workers, unions or representatives. This is because the global transition to a well-functioning low-carbon economy can only be socially just if the people at the heart of the current carbon-intensive systems are identified and engaged as agents of change.”

A successful transformation means rapidly phasing out fossil fuels from high-emitting sectors, while creating new industries, new skills and new jobs through investment, the report stated.

How are companies performing so far?

The companies' performance against the WBA’s just transition indicators is currently weak.

The average score for all companies is a devastatingly low 2.7 out of a possible score of 16. Of the 180 companies assessed, only 5% received more than the mid-level score of 8. The vast majority of companies, 84%, scored 4 points or less, and 32 of those companies score 0 on all just transition fundamentals. 

It said the leading generator of renewable electricity in the UK, SSE, achieved the highest score with 14 points. Both Eskom and Sasol performed poorly in the assessment. 

Read part one here.