South Africa tells Western diplomats that they need financial support to change from coal

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This month, the government adopted a more ambitious emissions reduction target of 350-420 Mt CO2e per year by 2030, weeks before the United Nations COP26 climate summit, where it hopes to wring money out of rich countries for a swifter transition to renewable energy.

South Africa’s struggling state power utility, which produces most of its power by burning coal — more than 80% of the country’s power is produced this way — wants billions of dollars to replace its heavily polluting coal plants with cleaner alternatives.

It told them that the financial support should include substantially concessional and grant funding which takes into account South Africa’s current fiscal constraints.

A South African delegation comprising the environment, trade and public enterprises ministers and deputy finance and foreign ministers met the Western climate envoys on Tuesday.

Story Highlights

  • South Africa is the world’s 12th biggest carbon emitter, according to the Global Carbon Atlas, five places ahead of the United Kingdom, an economy eight times the size, emitting 479 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e) in 2019. It is also by far Africa’s largest emitter.

  • “While South Africa is committed to a just transition (to cleaner energy sources), we need certainty of … financing … to accelerate this transition. We do need an irrevocable agreement that we can sign at COP26,” the environment department said.

Reporting by Alexander Winning Editing by Tim Cocks, William Maclean