Alex Rose-Innes

South Africa’s (SA) efforts in addressing climate change and its negative effects on people and the economy, received a firm nod from Cabinet last week. The meeting approved the revised National Determined Contributions (NDC’s), the Climate Bill and the country’s negotiating position for COP26.

SA’s updated NDC would, according to the Minister of Forestry, Fishery and Environment, Barbara Creecy’s latest statement, be shared with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The NDC represents the country’s contribution to global efforts in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.

The country’s NDC target range for 2025 had been updated from its original value as had the 2030 mitigation target range. The top of the range of this revised NDC is consistent with the Paris Agreement‘s temperature limit of “well below 2 degrees” and the bottom of the range consistent with the 1.5-degree temperature limit. SA had also brought forward the year in which emissions are due to decline from 2035 to 2025.

The submission of the updated NDC follows widespread consultation with business, organised labour, government, civil society and the Climate Commission. It indicated that current mitigation strategies in the energy, transport and waste sectors, together with afforestation measures, would SA to achieve the upper range of the target. More ambitious achievement would require significant multilateral financial support and technological transfer.  Discussions in this regard are ongoing with a range of governments and financing institutions.  The updated NDC also contains SA’s first Adaptation Communication.

Cabinet also adopted the long-awaited Climate Change Bill, SA’s negotiating position for the 26th international climate change (COP26) talks later this year, as well as the fourth Biennial Updated Report (BUR). This provides an update on the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions inventory from 2000 to 2017, including the GHG mitigation achieved during the same period, highlighting the support needed and received.

 The Climate Change Bill, which will soon be tabled in Parliament, provides for a co-ordinated and integrated response by the economy and society to climate change and its impacts.  It provides for the effective management of inevitable climate change impacts by enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to building social-economic and environmental resilience and an adequate national adaptation response. 

The Bill spells out that all adaptation and mitigation efforts should be based on the best available science, evidence and information. It further gives effect to SA’s international commitments and obligations in relation to climate change and defines steps to be taken to protect and preserve the planet for present and future generations. This follows the formation of the Presidential Climate Commission in February this year.

The Commission brings together government, the private sector, organised labour and civil society and is also tasked with researching inclusive transition, opening up new opportunities for local industrialisation and growth, job creation and reskilling. Fundamental to the Commission’s mandate is ensuring that the most vulnerable to the consequences of the transition, particularly workers and communities in the coal value chain, are not left behind.

With regard to SA’s negotiating mandate for COP 26, Cabinet agreed that negotiations should be conducted in a transparent, inclusive and balanced manner with priority given to all core issues under the UNFCCC and its Paris Agreement, as well as the Kyoto Protocol.

These include securing new support commitments by developed countries.  The Paris Agreement highlights obligations of developed countries to provide means of implementation including financing and technological transfer to developing countries. 

SA expects negotiations on the Market Approaches under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement to be completed, securing a share of proceeds for predictable financing.  In the statement, Minister Creecy said that she looked forward to the launching of the Work Programme on the operationalisation of the Global Adaptation Goal.

Recent research by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicated that over the next fifteen years developing countries will require between three and four trillion dollars in financial support to transition to lower carbon economies.