Africa: Blowing Hot Air – How Top Emitters are Doing on their Energy Transitions #AfricaClimateCrisis

Sharm el-Sheikh — Finding sustainable forms of energy is one of the critical global challenges we face when dealing with the climate emergency and that means an urgent move away from fossil fuels.

One tool that helps to evaluate the progress that countries make on their climate policy is the Climate Change Performance Index compiled by Germanwatch, the NewClimate Institute and the Climate Action Network. The index is based on objective emission indicators, renewable energy, and energy use but also on the national and international policy assessment of about 300 experts from their respective countries. It tracks the performance of 60 countries and the EU.

South Africa’s energy transition journey

South Africa faces a complex web of challenges in its energy sector such as being reliant on coal, problems with regular maintenance of infrastructure and what appears to be extensive sabotage and theft at the state-owned power utility Eskom.

The country is also one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, falling five spots to 44th in the 2023 index, with an overall low rating and a mixed rating across the four main categories. It also received a “very low” score for its performance on renewable energy, emissions and climate policy, but high in energy use.

The CCPI country experts welcomed the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) – a landmark funding deal to move South Africa away from coal and towards renewables – announced at COP26 and other ongoing projects in South Africa, but criticised a lack of transparency on the details of the agreement. The report is also calling for the JETP to be implemented in a just way, without leaving anyone behind.

The Presidential Climate Commission established in September 2020 to oversee and facilitate a just and equitable transition towards a low-emission, climate-resilient economy was also mentioned as a positive development.

The report added that: “Though the experts note the new policies in place to accelerate climate action, they criticised the government’s fossil fuel subsidies and support for fossil fuel. South Africa is among the nine countries responsible for 90% of global coal production. This is incompatible with the 1.5°C target. Overall, the experts demand a clear fossil fuel phase-out plan, more climate finance, and a just energy transition.”

South Africa’s government endorsed the JETP, an investment plan that will enable the country to unlock up to U.S.$8.5 billion in investment to fund the transition away from coal. It entered into a partnership with France, Germany, the U.S., the UK, and the European Union at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2021. The climate-finance agreementaims to invest in renewable energy and move away from coal for South Africa over the next three to five years.

It has been seven years since the Paris Agreement, in which leaders pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the worst effects of the climate emergency, but the world is still not on track to meet those goals. More than half of the world’s heat-trapping gases come from three places: The United States, China, and Canada. Denmark is the only country with a ‘high’ national and even ‘very high’ rated international climate policy.

No country ranked first, second, or third on the index.

Algeria and Morocco

Algeria rose six places to 48th in this year’s CCPI. According to the report, the country showed no significant change in the CCPI categories but there was a 13-place rise in GHG Emissions (now 29th). Algeria is among the top 20 countries with the largest developed oil and gas reserves.

Morocco rose one spot to 7th – a top 10, high-performing country in this year’s CCPI. Experts note that Morocco lacks the will to decentralise renewable energy and encourage citizens to produce their own renewable energy. Morocco has been at the forefront of reducing its GHG emissions and it strengthened this effort after COP22. The government has established a framework to reduce emissions and adhere to the Paris accords.

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry emphasised the need for major greenhouse gas emitters to do their part to mitigate the climate crisis, specifically citing the disproportionate risk to African nations relative to their emissions. “Seventeen countries in Africa [are among] 20 countries in the world that are most impacted by the climate crisis, and yet, Africa as a whole is only 2.5, 3% of all the emissions in the world. They’re not causing this problem”.

This story was produced as part of the 2022 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organised by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.

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