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South Africa warns others not to go from electricity to darkness

Image of Barbara Creecy

Minister of Forestry and Fisheries and Environmental Affairs Barbara Creecy

Photo by Donna Slater

1st December 2023

By: Bloomberg

  

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One of the architects of South Africa’s groundbreaking deal with rich nations to move more quickly away from coal sounded a note of caution to other countries considering similar agreements.

Environment Minister Barbara Creecy urged developing nations to make sure energy security and jobs are prioritised in any arrangement.

“You can’t go from electricity to darkness,” she said in an interview in Johannesburg on Thursday ahead of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai. “That’s not good for your economy, it’s not good for communities, it’s not good for your development trajectory.”

Pretoria secured a pledge of $8.8-billion in financing from some of the world’s richest nations for a Just Energy Transition Partnership, which requires South Africa to close down some of its coal-fired power plants earlier than planned.

Several cabinet ministers have said conditions attached to the deal are exacerbating electricity shortages and contributing to the rolling blackouts that have dogged the country for years.

Nations such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Senegal that have also secured concessional funds must “front-load energy security” before switching to alternate supplies, Creecy said.

Alternatives should be provided to those whose livelihoods depend on dirty energy facilities, because “you can’t give people a promise that some green jobs will be created somewhere,” she added.

South Africa is the world’s 14th-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, and it burns coal to generate more than 80% of its electricity.

An implementation plan for its climate pact, which was first agreed in Glasgow in late 2021, was laid out this month. It will see investment flowing into electricity infrastructure, electric vehicles, developing skills in the green hydrogen industry, support for municipalities and projects in the coal-dependent Mpumalanga province.

Creecy also called for developing nations to provide clarity on the sourcing of public financing that will be provided to developing countries to mitigate against climate change and adapt to it.

“We are all living through the climate crisis and developing countries, particularly those on the African continent, are becoming severely affected,” she said. While there was an agreement reached at last year’s COP talks to establish a fund to help vulnerable nations with damages from more extreme weather, “it’s far better to build climate resilience in developing countries,” she said.

 

Edited by Bloomberg

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