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Climate Change: What is South Africa’s Role?

Climate Change: What is South Africa’s Role?

The message on climate change is clear: ‘Every country must be part of the solution,’ says UN secretary-general António Guterres. The latest IPCC’s Synthesis Report on climate change is a wake-up call for South Africa where fossil fuels are still widely used

Time is running out to limit runaway and irreversible damage, say scientists in the latest IPCC’s Synthesis Report. Every country must be part of the climate change solution, including South Africa, reports the Green Economy Journal.

The world’s leading scientists have delivered a “final warning” on the state of the planet, as climate pollution continues to soar and populations suffer escalating heat and weather extremes.

The IPCC’s Synthesis Report draws together key findings of the preceding three main sections, providing a comprehensive review of global knowledge of the climate. “There are multiple, feasible and effective options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to human-caused climate change, and they are available now,” explain the scientists. However, time is running out to limit runaway and irreversible damage, they warn. 

Responding to the report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “The climate time bomb is ticking. But today’s IPCC report is a how-to guide to defuse the climate time bomb. It is a survival guide for humanity. As it shows, the 1.5°C limit is achievable. But it will take a quantum leap in climate action.”

Every country and every sector must now “massively fast-track” climate efforts to rise to the scale of the challenge ahead, he added.

Act now to halt an escalating crisis

Nearly half the world’s population is living in the danger zone of climate impacts, and Africa is a hotspot of vulnerability to climate extremes. Already, unpredictable weather is driving famine, disease and poverty and inhibiting progress toward human well-being. And in the absence of rapid, deep and sustained climate mitigation and adaptation actions, losses and damages will continue to escalate across the continent, states the report.

However, taking bold climate action now can limit the damage, and IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee emphasises the opportunities available with globally coordinated efforts. “Mainstreaming effective and equitable climate action will not only reduce losses and damages for nature and people, but it will also provide wider benefits,” said Lee.

“This Synthesis Report underscores the urgency of taking more ambitious action and shows that, if we act now, we can still secure a liveable sustainable future for all.”

South Africa’s role in fighting climate change

South Africa is one of just four emerging nations that has set a net zero by 2050 target. However, Minister Mantashe’s plans to rely on polluting coal and gas far into the future and industry lobbying to weaken climate plans are at odds with urgent action for climate damage mitigation. 

While reaching net zero emissions by 2050 remains crucial, the Synthesis Report also makes clear that immediate action to halve emissions by 2030 must take priority. The policy and investment decisions that South Africa makes today are therefore vital, and Guterres summarises the fundamental steps nations need to take to keep 1.5°C alive:

  • No new coal, the phasing out of coal by 2030 in OECD countries and 2040 in all others 
  • Ending all international public and private funding of coal
  • Ensuring net-zero electricity generation by 2035 for all developed countries and 2040 for the rest of the world
  • Ceasing all licensing or funding of new oil and gas
  • Stopping any expansion of existing oil and gas reserves
  • Shifting subsidies from fossil fuels to a just energy transition
  • Establishing a global phase-down of existing oil and gas production, compatible with the 2050 global net-zero target

As South Africa continues to fall back on polluting and expensive fossil fuels rather than invest in the green transition, it takes itself – and the world – further down the path of dangerous climate change. “Every country must be part of the solution,” says Guterres. “We have never been better equipped to solve the challenge, but we must move into warp-speed climate action now. We don’t have a moment to lose.”

Green Economy Journal

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