South Africa is blowing its carbon budget - It is the world’s 14th largest emitter of carbon dioxide
South Africa has a climate change problem. Per person, South Africans emit more than anyone outside of the West. It is the world’s 14th largest emitter of carbon dioxide. Three-quarters of these emissions come from Eskom’s coal-fired power plants and Sasol’s coal-to-liquid fuel plant at Secunda, the largest in the world.
Tackling emissions effectively would mean taking tough decisions about these. But the country’s plans are nowhere near ambitious enough. If they were, Eskom would either have to close down its Medupi and Kusile power plants (which are just coming into operation) or Sasol would have to close down its lucrative Secunda plant.
Both entities have indicated that this is not going to happen. Sasol has said it won’t build another plant like Secunda, partly because of its carbon footprint.
South Africa’s national plan for lowering carbon emissions was drawn up in 2007 before the global financial crash and before renewable energy could create energy more cheaply than coal-powered plants. Each year, the country emits nearly 500-million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The goal sees this continuing to 2025, before plateauing out, and then decreasing from 2036.
Climate Action Tracker, a European group that digs into country climate plans to see their cumulative global effect, rates the South African plan as “highly insufficient”. If every country in the world adopted a similar approach, the world would warm by 4°C this century, double what is considered safe by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
And of course, the only nuclear power station is approaching 40 years old and will need to be retired at some point, which may also not help matters much in the short term. And in the meantime deaths and illnesses are also being caused by this pollution so it also comes at a cost of lives and healthcare budgets.
Things are changing, but not fast enough. The current rate of global warming will mean the worst possible outcome, when the ecosystems that the economy and life rely on collapse.
|SA is blowing its carbon budget
The numbers don’t add up as emissions from coal-fired power stations are allowed to grow