South Africa will be going into COP26, in Glasgow, Scotland, next week with a substantial agenda and both business and government representatives will be going with a view to getting things done, business organisation Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) CEO Busi Mavuso says in her weekly newsletter.
“South African business has been working hard on the challenge it faces to transition to a lower-carbon future. The National Business Initiative has worked hard in charting a path for South African business towards net zero and organised business has been very engaged in debating the future.
“BLSA members have had several engagements to work through the measures that need to be made and the implications. This has dovetailed various political processes, particularly the Presidential Climate Commission and the Climate Change Bill, both of which have done much to position South Africa to confront the immense challenge of transitioning our economy. The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment will be the front line of the formal negotiations at the event,” she says.
Mavuso notes that South Africa needs to access finance for the considerable investments that need to be made to transition to lower-carbon energy.
“That finance is not going to be easy money – we have to be ready to convince both that we are a good credit risk and that we are serious about reducing our carbon intensity. And we must ensure we are conscious of the social and political consequences in terms of communities and workers that will be affected,” she emphasises.
Mavuso says there will be significant pressure at COP26 for South Africa to make firm commitments to targets; especially given the attention it receives for being the twelfth worst emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.
“It is important that South Africa be clear that it will shed this unwanted prominence, but it must be clear too that it cannot be done without global assistance,” she explains.
Mavuso says the country is vulnerable to global measures such as carbon taxes that will disproportionately affect its export-oriented industries with serious consequences for the economy.
“COP26 is a critical moment to strike the right balance – we are committed to reducing our carbon output and doing our part to confront climate change, but it has to be done in a way that is conscious of our unique social and economic challenges,” she says.
Mavuso mentions that business has, especially in the past year, made considerable strides in the disclosure of carbon intensiveness, with particular examples of big businesses making large strategic commitments to reducing carbon emissions either within their own operations or in those they finance or buy from.
“This signals the kind of path we are on – it will be critical for all businesses to build climate policies into their DNA. COP26 will be a very important point to signal,” she says.