At last month’s United Nations Climate Action Summit, 65 countries and major sub-national economies such as California committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while 70 countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so.

South Africa was among the latter, with the country’s plans including the decommissioning of old coal powered plants, adding significant additional renewable energy capacity, and exploring recirculation technologies to minimize the costs and environmental impacts of mining.

The Summit was a precursor to the 2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will be taking place in Chile in December. Here, world leaders will be expected to build on the ambition of their post-2020 climate actions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). They are also expected to communicate their long-term low emissions development plans to put the world on a path to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement which aims to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

South Africa has seven NDCs which it has committed to achieve, including:

  • 2050 Pathways Platform: Building climate resilience for communities, farmers and workers along value chains;
  • Africa Initiative for Sustainable Cities: Integrating and enabling national strategies and decision-making processes at city level;
  • CEM: Global Lighting Challenge: Deploying 10 billion high-efficiency light bulbs as fast as possible;
  • Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI): Doubling vehicle fuel efficiency globally by 2050
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA): Mobilizing more than US$1 trillion of investments by 2030 for the mass deployment of affordable solar energy;
  • Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI); Scaling up Africa’s renewable energy potential to achieve at least 10 GW of new and additional renewable energy generation capacity by 2020 and at least 300 GW by 2030; and
  • Clean Energy Corridors in Africa: Meeting half of the total electricity demand from clean, indigenous, cost-effective renewable resources in the Eastern and Southern Africa regions by 2030.

At Thula Moya, we fully support our country’s commitment to mitigating climate change via these initiatives and are thrilled to see that so many of them are focused on renewable energy. However, there needs to be real and intensified action behind these NDCs if we are to make a real difference to our planet before it is too late. To quote President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address at the United Nations Climate Action Summit: “The world depends on us. We have seen the disastrous effects of climate change across the globe in the increased incidence and severity of extreme weather events such as flooding and droughts. In fact, the recent IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C has identified southern Africa as a climate change hot spot. Our region is likely to become drier and drastically warmer even under 1.5 or 2 °C of global warming.”

The President also said: “The mitigation challenge posed to South Africa is considerable. About 80% of our emissions are from our energy sector. Like all countries of the world, we recognize the urgency with which we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and move towards a carbon-neutral future. The rapid fall in prices of renewable energy technologies, coupled with our immense renewable energy resources, has created a massive opportunity for us to make this shift.”

We fully agree and call on all South Africans to put in the action required to curb climate change by adopting renewable energy technologies in their own homes and businesses. As the old adage goes, “think globally, act locally”.

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