The political economy of South Africa’s energy transition for outsiders

In South Africa, the political drift is towards favouring ‘low-carbon options’ and engineering a distracting skirmish between coal and renewables technologies to keep the renewables camp busy. And quietly, gas, nuclear and coal is being pushed.

“A man who is used to acting in one way never changes, he must come to ruin when the times, in changing no longer is in harmony with his ways.’’ (Machiavelli, The Prince)

As the head of a new foundation, called the African Climate Foundation, I get recurrent questions asked by experts, development finance institutions and others from outside South Africa, as to what is going on with South Africa’s energy transition and the once very laudable Renewables Independent Power Producers Programme (REIPPP).

The very short answer is, whether they believe it or not, that it is not the only transition on the go and the low-carbon transition includes for now: clean coal, gas and nuclear. Well, they may all have their green-house gas merits, but it is to be seen if they will be cheap, quick and lead to deep decarbonisation of South Africa’s electricity sector.

Renewables is a nascent industry – with great promise – not only as low-cost energy solutions, but in the longer run would undoubtedly have laid the foundation for new industrial and manufacturing capability.

As with every energy carrier, coal, gas, nuclear and renewables, local content provisions and industrial capability grow with time – they take decades, but require a structured and sustained policy enabling an environment of consistent installed capacity for this to be realised.

The policy hostility towards renewables, which goes against the government’s own Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), seems to be garnished with a combination of outlandish conspiracy theories that the greenies are trying to capture the energy policy of government and all sorts of “alternative facts” about renewables are being shouted out from the bully pulpit.

Read the full article on Daily Maverick

Covid-19 pandemic and climate change are expected to top the agenda at the G7 summit

The Executive Director of the African Climate Foundation, Saliem Fakir, was joined by the CEO of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA), Elizabeth Sidiropoulos in an interview with Newzroom Afrika. Together, they discussed the significance of the G7 Summit and its outcome as the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change topped the agenda.

Africa day climate dialogue and our strategic framework launch

To celebrate Africa Day, the African Climate Foundation launched its Strategic Framework 2021 – 2025 and hosted an interactive dialogue with its esteemed Advisory Council. Participants reflected on a core set of issues and responses to climate change on the continent, explored points of intersection in their existing work and shared insights on the future trajectory of Africa’s just energy transition.

Future energy conversations with Saliem Fakir and Leila Weideman

Leila Mahomed Weideman, Director of Sustainable Energy Markets, City of Cape Town and Saliem Fakir, Executive Director of the African Climate Foundation unpack energy security and how a secure energy supply we can enable growth and diversify our economy.

As COVID-19 has shown us, our country’s deep structural inequalities are exacerbated by further shocks and we can no longer deny the impact that climate change will bring. Cape Town stands poised to lead with renewable energy deployment in the country, but cannot do it alone. Municipalities and businesses must work together to shift regulations towards a cleaner, more economically viable energy system. Getting citizens onboard is key but the challenge is shifting the conversation from climate science into good decision making.

Foreign policy in uncertain times: what are the options for South Africa?

In recent years, the rules-based system that has governed the global political and economic order since the Second World War has become increasingly fragile. It has been undermined by the contempt that the Trump administration has shown for it, by the rise of more nationalist governments in countries as different as Brazil, the UK, India, Hungary and Turkey, and by tensions between the members of key multilateral blocs like the EU, NATO and BRICS. The result is that the institutions of global governance have become increasing ineffective – as evidenced by, for example, their management of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current state of the WTO.

This webinar explores some of these questions, with a particular focus on unpacking South Africa’s climate change diplomacy options over the next few years. This event was co-hosted by SAIIA, The Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria and the African Climate Foundation.

Channing Arndt discusses unpacking the climate change and development nexus in Africa

Director of the Environment and Production Technology Division, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Channing Arndt has more than 25 years of experience in development economics with seven years combined resident experience in Morocco and Mozambique. He has published more than 70 articles in leading academic journals. His program of research has focused on agricultural development, poverty alleviation and growth, market integration, gender and discrimination, the implications of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, technological change, trade policy, aid effectiveness, infrastructure investment, energy, bioenergy, climate variability, and the implications of climate change.


Tasneem Essop discusses unpacking the climate change and development nexus in Africa

Tasneem Essop is currently the Executive Director of Climate Action Network. She is an expert on climate, energy, poverty and social justice issues and is the Founding Director of the Energy Democracy Initiative.  Essop served as a former Provincial Minister of Environment, Planning and Economic Development in the Western Cape and the Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning and the Department of Economic Development. She was a global climate policy and strategy leader for WWF International and served as the Head of Delegation for the organisation at the UNFCCC including at the Paris COP.


Saliem Fakir discusses knowledge systems and knowledge production on the continent

Prior to establishing the ACF, Saliem Fakir served as the Head of the Policy & Futures Unit of WWF South Africa for 11 years. Saliem has worked as a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Public Administration and Planning and an Associate Director for the Centre for Renewable and Sustainable Energy at Stellenbosch University. Prior to that he served as Director of the World Conservation Union, South Africa (IUCN-SA) for eight years. Saliem is a prolific writer and contributes regularly to leading South African publications like Engineering News, Business Day and the Daily Maverick.

Watch more from Africa's Innovations:

Prof. Carlos Lopes discusses unpacking the climate change and development nexus in Africa

Tasneem Essop discusses unpacking the climate change and development nexus in Africa

Channing Arndt discusses unpacking the climate change and development nexus in Africa

rof Carlos Lopes discusses unpacking the climate change and development nexus in Africa

Prof. Carlos Lopes discusses unpacking the climate change and development nexus in Africa

Honorary Professor at the Mandela School and current AU High Representative to support Member States in the negotiation of a new agreement with the European Union post-2020 and member of the organisation’s Reform Team. Professor Carlos Lopes served as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. Prior to this, he was UN representative in Zimbabwe and Brazil, director for development policy at the UN Development Programme, Executive Director of UNITAR, Director of the United Nations System Staff College, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan’s political director.