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[LISTEN] R131 Billion Promised, but Will it be Used Properly?

Staff Writer

The EU, Germany, UK, France and US recently promised around R131 billion in funding between 2023 and 2025 to assist South Africa transition away from coal. However, questions remain, especially around prioritisation and capacity.  Responding to this, President Ramaphosa, released a statement arguing that, “The partnership that we have established today is a watershed moment not only for our own just transition, but for the world as a whole. It is proof that we can take ambitious climate action while increasing our energy security, creating jobs and harnessing new opportunities for investment, with support from developed economies.”

The funding will take the form of grants, loans and the mobilisation of additional finance, and is touted to be utilised to inform the creation of new industries dealing with clean energy. In addition, it will also be utilised to assist workers and communities impacted by the closure of coal stations, including the recently announced transitioning of the Komati PowerStation.

Significantly, South Africa is responsible for around 90% of coal projects continentally. Transitioning away from coal for South Africa would mean much the same for the continent as a whole; only 3 coalfired power stations have come online since 2015, with only 4 currently in construction on the African continent. Africa has experienced temperature increases at double the rate of the rest of the world, likely meaning that the impacts of climate change will be felt more acutely on the continent.

South Africa is the 12th largest Green House Gas emitter globally, with Eskom recently being found to be the most pollutant company in the world in relation to sulphur dioxide, more than the US and China combined.

Speaking to Radio Islam International, Liz McDaid argued that this was a positive move, and would likely lead to the distribution and decentralisation of energy generation away from coal, toward wind and solar, which can be generated more diffusely. “What we are moving into is a new world, and it’s a much more flexible world. It’s more distributed so that what we’re going to see is a lot more energy generation spread around the country rather than a whole batch or battery bank, as it were, of coal fired power stations in one province.” This McDaid argued would also provide impetus for economic growth, especially in relation to supportive industries, and because stable energy supply allows for the growth of business.

McDaid also expressed partial scepticism, especially in relation to politicians, specifically Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who has sought to delay the repurposing of coalfired power stations “the money is great, but if you don’t have the will to implement, then what is actually going to happen?” Further, she critiqued the increased focus on gas as a supposed transitioning vessel, especially since countries such as the Dutch and French have companies off South Africa’s coast currently drilling for gas, and also in neighbouring Mozambique; McDaid questioned whether will those countries would really aid transformation and transition when they’re involve in the pollution themselves.

Lastly, she argued that the youth were especially critical in fighting for this change, and that the partial increased cost of living, which we are all experiencing, is a consequence of the unfettered pollution. In addition, she argued that lobbying was necessary to ensure real change, that even though many of the youth can’t currently make a major dent on climate change and fossil fuel usage, lobbying politicians and businessman alike may bear fruit.

 

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