Friday, November 12, 2021

South Africa, Climate Change and Coal



South Africa is the world’s seventh-largest coal producer.

80 percent of the country’s energy is generated by it. 

30 percent of South Africa’s production is exported, making the country the fourth-largest coal exporter in the world.

South Africa is the 12th-biggest carbon dioxide emitter in the world.

Mineral and Energy Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe previously described giving up coal as “economic suicide” and a threat to South Africa’s energy security. 

He delivered the keynote speech at a local mining investment conference while the envoys were still in the country, and called for “investment in technology that could potentially prolong the use of coal”. Mantashe has always argued that South Africa does not have the necessary economic might and vast sovereign funds to abandon coal investment to meet the “green economy” demands of rich nations.

South Africa’s four biggest banks are refusing to turn off coal financing, at least in the short term. 

The country’s influential trade unions are also publicly campaigning to stop any move away from coal and towards sustainable energy resources with the coal industry providing the country with 80,000 coal jobs at a time where South Africa already suffers an unemployment crisis

In September, the global benchmark coal price reached $177.50 per tonne.

South Africa’s government has seen this rise in coal prices as an economic lifeline.

What South Africa wants is a clear promise from the rich nations, who are primarily responsible for the climate change emergency, to fund – in full – the country’s recovery from its coal dependency.

South Africa was also putting forward the points of view of many nations that believe they should have their turn in benefitting from their coal reserves despite the climate crisis. For example, Zimbabwe is planning to open new coal mines in the near future to meet its energy needs and, eventually, become a coal exporter.

South Africa’s Environment Minister Barbara Creecy insists that rich nations need to do to pay more than $750bn a year to help these countries reliant upon income from coal to switch to sustainable energy resources without collapsing their economies.

South Africa’s stubbornness on coal paid off at COP26 – at least partially. The US, UK, France, Germany and the EU agreed to pay $8.5bn to help end the country’s reliance on the coal mining industry. 

But there are many other nations expecting to receive such funding before they curtail their coal supplies.

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