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South Africa Says Climate Targets On Track if Coal Phase-Out Is Not Delayed Again

South Africa Says Climate Targets On Track if Coal Phase-Out Is Not Delayed Again

South Africa’s delay in taking coal-fired power stations offline will only harm its commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 if the plants continue to burn well into the 2030s, the head of its donor-funded green energy plan said on Tuesday.

Officials admitted privately in November that South Africa will miss its binding 2030 carbon emissions targets under the Paris climate agreement, as Africa’s most industrialised country will run eight coal-fired power plants for longer than planned.

Countries around the world, including Canada, Britain and Germany have delayed or watered down energy transition plans.

South Africa is the 15th biggest emitter in the world, according to the Global Carbon Atlas, a significant drop from previous years. This is mostly owing to power shortages at state power provider Eskom. But its emissions are still much bigger than more developed economies like Britain, Vietnam or Italy.

“I think that if we delay well into the 2030s, we will have a problem in meeting our NDC (nationally determined contribution) commitments,” said Joanne Yawitch, head of the green energy overhaul which Western and multilateral donors are partly funding.

“(But) I don’t think South Africa is backtracked from (its climate commitments) in any way whatsoever,” she added.

The country committed under the Paris deal to cut emissions to between 350 and 420 million tonnes annually by 2030, from 442 million tonnes this decade. To do this, it planned to decommission eight coal-fired power plants, six by 2030 and the remaining by 2034, but has since backed away from closing them.

The economy has been hit by brutal daily power shortages.

“Over the last couple of years, we have certainly been on track to be below reasonably below that 420 megatons of carbon equivalent (the 2030 goal),” Yawitch said, adding that “we haven’t had any indications that there is risk to the (donor) … financing” from delays to decommissioning coal plants.



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