The Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) has commended Cabinet’s decision to approve a reduced target range for greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions in South Africa, noting that it is “a marked improvement” from the previous target range proposed by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE).
These targets make up South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Climate Agreement, and as such form an integral part of South Africa’s climate change mitigation response.
An ambitious NDC is not only an essential part of South Africa’s climate change mitigation efforts, but will also play an increasingly important role in determining the country’s access to climate finance, CER said in a statement on Thursday. It would assist South Africa to mitigate some of the risk posed to its trade exports by the implementation of the European Union’s carbon border adjustment mechanism.
However, while the CER said that the latest revised NDC target range was an important step forward for climate action in South Africa, it stressed that only the lower limit of the range (of 350-million tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent) is consistent with South Africa’s fair share of GHG emissions for a 1.5 °C global pathway, as calculated by international research group Climate Equity Reference Project (CERP).
CER stated the higher limit was “well above” a 1.5 °C trajectory.
“There is a material risk that our big emitters see the upper limit of the new NDC range as an opportunity to delay the reduction of GHG emissions,” commented CER pollution and climate change lawyer and head Nicole Loser.
She explained that Cabinet’s decision only mattered for the country’s climate response if it could keep emissions to the lower limit.
“This is of particular importance for South Africa, a country that is warming at twice the global average.”
At present trajectories of global climate action, including South Africa’s currently in place NDC, South Africa is on a pathway to a 3 °C to 4 °C warmer climate by 2100, which could be catastrophic for the country.
The NDC range proposed by the Presidential Climate Commission, and approved by Cabinet, took the country closer to a pathway for a safe climate, but not close enough, the CER stressed.
However, with the new approved target range, the CER urged South Africa to start taking urgent action to meet its commitments.
Among these actions would be a revision of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to remove new fossil fuel (coal and gas) electricity capacity and urgently implementing the renewable energy build plans in the IRP.
“A strong local NDC, accompanied by sound policy implementation, has the potential to unlock many opportunities in the green economy, with the energy, transport, agricultural and other sectors standing to become net employment creators and enhanced revenue generators - if the moment is seized,” noted CER climate advocacy lawyer Brandon Abdinor.
All parties to the Paris Climate Agreement must update their NDCs every five years, with many countries revising their 2015 targets this year, to align with recent scientific findings of the latest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.