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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Cyril Ramaphosa: COP26 must ensure a just transition and no one will be left behind

The author is the President of the Republic of South Africa

Mankind is facing an unprecedented climate crisis, and the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants is at stake. In South Africa, we must not only deal with these major dangers, but if the international community fails to deal with the crisis in a way that applies to both developing and developed markets, we must also deal with potential economic and social damage.

Latest report Climate scientists from the United Nations warned that the rate of global warming is accelerating, and the temperature rise in sub-Saharan Africa is much higher than the international average. Many South Africans are already feeling the effects of drought and flooding. Some areas of Mpumalanga province are seriously polluted, and susceptibility to respiratory diseases and tuberculosis may increase. Due to constant changes in weather patterns and water temperature, fish populations have declined.

As South Africa’s trading partners pursue the goal of net zero carbon emissions, they may increase import restrictions on goods produced using carbon-intensive energy.Because our industry relies heavily on coal-fired power generation-coal is currently the source of coal 77% of South African energy ——The products we export to these countries may face trade barriers. Consumers there may be reluctant to buy our export products.

These trends mean that we need to take urgent and ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a low-carbon economy. Many of our peer countries have already started. But the only way to succeed in the transformation is whether to make a broad commitment to the transformation-a journey of net zero that leaves no one behind.

Careful consideration must be given to the needs of workers and communities in industries and regions that will be hurt by this shift. Organized labor, companies, and governments need to develop retraining, employment, livelihood loss compensation, and other support programs to ensure that workers become the main beneficiaries of our transition to a greener future.

South Africa is formulating plans to achieve a transition to net zero. Our power sector accounts for 41% of our greenhouse gas emissions and will be the first stage. We will decommission and reuse coal-fired power stations and invest in new low-carbon power generation capacity. We will also seek green industrialization opportunities, such as the production of electric vehicles and fuel cells, to stimulate employment and economic growth.

South Africa has abundant natural and mineral resources. These can be used to build new economies in areas such as renewable energy and green hydrogen. The national power company Eskom will start a pilot project at its Komati power station, which will shut down its last coal-fired unit next year to generate electricity from solar energy. Komati will serve as an example to illustrate how to achieve the transition to renewable energy.

To demonstrate our ambitions, the Cabinet recently approved an updated Nationally Determined Contribution, It sets a target range for net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The top of the range (420 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent) is compatible with limiting global warming to below 2C, while the bottom of the range (350 megatons) is compatible with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to below 1.5C. Given that South Africa’s current total emissions are about 500 megatons of carbon dioxide equivalent, this target will require a significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels.

Where we reach this range depends on the support we get. If the more developed economies do not fulfil their commitments to provide financial assistance for the energy transition of developing economies, South Africa’s ambitions will not be realized. This help must come in the form of grants, preferential interest-rate loans, and private investment from international and local pools of funds. We are encouraged by many of our international partners who have pledged to support this transition and develop cooperation models that can be applied to other countries.

Climate capital

Where climate change meets business, markets, and politics. Explore the British “Financial Times” report here.

Are you curious about the environmental sustainability commitment of the Financial Times? Learn more about our science-based goals here

To be clear, this has nothing to do with charity. This is about fairness and mutual benefit. Economically developed countries bear the greatest responsibility for climate change because they have historically been the biggest polluters. Developing economies are most affected.

In addition to supporting a fair transition, the fact is that if the path to net zero does not include developing economies, the global climate crisis cannot be avoided. At the COP26 summit, we have a window of opportunity to ensure a just transition for all nations and protect the future of our planet.

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