SA mining sector not for renewable energy development

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Mining and energy giants are jeopardising South Africa’s net zero ambitions with a flood of opposition to climate policies, according to a think-tank that monitors companies’ communications.

Mixed signals from the industries place “goals at risk” in a country where “climate targets and policies are still not stringent enough,” London-based thinktank InfluenceMap said in a report published yesterday.

Study findings
The researchers examined climate-related policies of 16 companies and 12 industry lobby groups in South Africa, the continent’s most industrialised country and one of the globe’s largest greenhouse polluters.

The study “shows that oppositional industry voices are significantly more engaged than pro-climate corporations on key policies… resulting in them being watered down or delayed”.

The study also looked at companies including a telecoms firm, a steel maker, a cement manufacturer and a supermarket chain.

Nearly three-quarters of the surveyed companies in the energy industry backed renewable energy development in South Africa.

‘Negative lobbying’
But the mining sector came up among the most defiant on climate change advocacy “and continues to strongly support the role of coal in the future energy mix”.

“This negative lobbying appears to have successfully weakened key climate policies, which will end up making it harder for the country to achieve its longterm targets,” said InfluenceMap analyst Ciara Ellis.

South Africa was the first developing country to sign the socalled “Just Energy Transition Partnership”, a global scheme where rich nations have pledged an $8.5 billion grant (more than R150 billion) to help South Africa wean itself off fossil fuels.

The deal was seen as a template for accelerating energy transition in emerging economies, with Indonesia and Vietnam following suit.

$98 billion investment plan
Wealthy nations also endorsed a $98 billion investment plan for South Africa at last year’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, whose country generates about 80% of its electricity through coal, cautioned last month that it would be impossible to immediately abandon its fossil-fuelled electricity generating plants.

According to InfluenceMap, the embattled state-owned power utility Eskom supports policies to hasten the uptake of renewables, but still advocates “a continued role for fossil gas and coal”.

The debt-laden state energy firm, which has been riddled with corruption, generates more than 90% of South Africa’s electricity.

Eskom’s ailing fleet of generator plants have in recent months plunged South Africa into its worst blackouts in decades.

The Citizen