If all other governments were to follow South Africa’s level of ambition when it comes to cutting carbon dioxide emissions, it would lead to the planet warming up by between 3°C and 4°C above pre-industrial levels.
This is among the key findings in the latest G20 Brown to Green Report compiled by Climate Transparency, a global partnership of 14 climate research organisations and NGOs from the majority of G20 countries.
While the country is still heavily dependent on coal, the report also notes the very positive shift to renewables in the electricity sector envisaged in the country’s draft Integrated Resource Plan, and plans to introduce a carbon tax and a carbon budget system.
It also praises the South African government for recently kickstarting the stalled renewables programme by signing outstanding contracts with independent power producers, but laments the failure to introduce policies aimed at phasing out coal, as many other G20 countries have done, as well as its decision to build new coal power plants until 2024.
The 20 major economies play a key role for achieving the Paris targets because they alone account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The Brown to Green Report draws on the latest emissions data from 2017 and covers 80 indicators on decarbonisation, climate policies, finance and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Providing country ratings, it identifies leaders and laggards in the G20.
“South Africa has the G20’s highest emissions intensity in the power sector due to our extensive reliance on coal for electricity generation,” Marquard of the Energy Research Centre at the University of Cape Town. “The country is facing many challenges in moving away from its coal-based economy, and its new electricity plan will be a big step forward, especially if it excludes the planned new coal plants and accelerates the retirement of old expensive coal plants. Luckily South Africa has incredible renewable resources, and renewable energy is now significantly cheaper than coal.”
“The recent IPCC 1.5°C report showed us the world needs to ramp up action on climate change. Power generation from coal, oil and gas, and transport produce the biggest chunk of emissions in the vast majority of G20 countries,” said one of the report’s co-authors, Jiang Kejun of the Energy Research Institute in China. “No G20 government is really getting a grip on these sectors – especially Australia, the United States, Russia and Indonesia, who are all lagging behind. But some countries are already moving ahead, like the United Kingdom or France with their decision to quickly phase out coal and fossil fuel-based cars,” he said.