In a move sure to be celebrated by opponents of fossil fuel-based energy, the World Bank has just made a huge announcement at the One Planet summit called by French President Emmanuel Macron. The bank, which provides loans to developing countries to foster economic growth, announced on December 12 that it will no longer offer financial support for oil and gas exploration after 2019.
During the summit, the bank released a statement saying it “will no longer finance upstream oil and gas,” citing a need to change in a “rapidly changing world.” In 2015, the bank previously vowed to have 28% of its portfolio dedicated to climate action by 2020. The bank’s latest statement on fossil fuel financing suggests that it is on course to achieve that goal.
This is yet another blow to the fossil fuel energy industry, and a seemingly significant win for environmental advocates. The economics surrounding the energy sector are increasingly making it more attractive for entities to switch to renewable energy. Across the world, it has become cheaper to build new renewable energy installations than to operate and maintain existing coal power plants.
The World Bank’s plan does lay out a caveat for “exceptional circumstances,” saying that they will consider “…financing upstream gas in the poorest countries where there is a clear benefit in terms of energy access for the poor and the project fits within the countries’ Paris Agreement commitments.”
The Paris agreement is a major factor in the decision. The One Earth summit was planned on the two-year anniversary of the historic agreement, which was looking uncertain after the President of the United States, one of the major financial and influential member nations, decided to withdraw. Even so, the agreement looks to be thriving, even in the US, which may reach the goals laid out in Paris against all odds.
CAPE TOWN – A South African expert says citizens have failed at using recycling as a method to combat waste.
Plastic could outweigh the amount of fish in our oceans by 2050, the World Economic Forum (WEF) warned in a report last week.
Plastic production has surged over the past 50 years, from 15 million tonnes in 1964 to over 300 million tonnes worldwide last year.
Currently, only 14 percent of plastic goods – mostly packaging – are being recycled.
Plastics are fossil-fuel based and it’s impossible to remake plastic into the quality it was before, says Muna Lakhani, founder of Zero Waste in Africa.
Lakhani says South Africans have failed.
“We’ve been recycling for probably 30 or 40 years and it hasn’t made any sort of significant dent in the waste stream. The most problematic material in our recycling stream is indeed plastic.”
You could be forgiven for thinking that electric cars are a magic bullet for transforming the streets of the UK. London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith has claimed they will soon make buses in the capital redundant, and the city has launched a £100m project to encourage more people to use electric cars. There is, presumably, a clear case for saying London would be transformed for the better by electric vehicles.
Alas, we struggled to find this case written down anywhere. So we sat down with a blank spreadsheet and tried to work it out from first principles. We began by listing the problems that motor vehicles currently bring to cities. Then, we asked what electricity could do to address each of these.
Is electric better?
Perhaps the most obvious reason people get excited about electric vehicles is pollution. Conventional vehicles spew some very noxious stuff into our streets,killing many thousands each year (pdf), including several thousand in London alone. Electric vehicles offer a real advantage in reducing the dangerous nitrogen oxide and particulate matter in urban areas.
But as well as being cleaner, are electric vehicles also greener? That’s a different question – one to which the answer is entirely dependent on how the nation generates its electricity. In 2014, 19.1% of the UK’s electricity (pdf) was generated from renewables compared with 30% for gas and 30% for coal.
This heavy use of fossil fuels means the electric car is not as eco-friendly as it might initially appear. Electric vehicles basically move the fossil-fuel combustion from inside the car to another part of the country (safely outside the purview of any elected mayors). They don’t do much about how we’ll stop our nation emitting greenhouse gases.
The problems of today’s vehicles, however, go far beyond emissions. The hypermobility (pdf) they provide permits suburban sprawl (and thus extra greenhouse gas emissions) as it becomes possible for people to live, work and shop at places distant from one another. And there is another big space problem: a car used for 50 minutes a day is unused 96.5% of the time. Frequently cars are stored on roads and pavements, to the detriment of traffic flow, aesthetics, councils’ finances and the needs of vulnerable road users.
Simply swapping one engine for another does nothing to solve a raft of other problems. The UK has a billion-pound health crisis (pdf) arising from physical inactivity. Shifting shorter journeys – for example, those under two miles – from cars to active travel modes such as walking or cycling is one of the best things(pdf) any developed nation can do to tackle its health problems. Electric vehicles, at best, leave this problem untouched.
Perhaps what electric vehicle champions are really thinking of – especially when they suggest they will replace buses – is self-driving electric cars. Taking the driver out of the picture overcomes some issues, most obviously the problem of collisions – there is a high global and UK death toll from people crashing their vehicles.
A switch to driverless vehicles gives us an opportunity to rethink our relationship with cars. We could move away from the old idea that everybody should own their own car and have a much smaller number of automated cars, each in frequent use and summoned when people need them.
Self-driving cars might overcome some genuine problems, such as the number of cars on the road and where we store all the unused cars. But this future requires car makers to sell few cars rather than many. This makes it unlikely any real change will happen – especially given the cosy relationship car manufacturers have enjoyed with governments. There is a lack of ambition and vision from the motoring industry which, for all its innovation, avoids addressing underlying issues.
And even if we did shift to fewer shared vehicles, we are still left with the issues of urban sprawl, and questions about health and wellbeing. Even driverless cars do not address these fundamental problems. We need to stop building towns and cities on the self-fulfilling assumption people will travel by car. There is no future in which humans can sit down all day without paying an enormous health price. If driverless cars appear in streets anything like today’s, we risk falling into the most pathetic of robot uprisings, where they transport us helpfully from place to place while we remain inactive, growing fat and increasing our risk of cancer and diabetes.
Electric vehicles should not be considered a panacea for sustainable transport but rather a possible part of the puzzle. We need to rethink the journeys we make. Many of our urban journeys are short and we should plan cities with that in mind. Perhaps in the future we will continue to drive to the city, but we won’t drive through the city. Let’s turn cities back into a place for human beings to make their short journeys in a physically active way.
(3BL Media/Justmeans) – According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), a sustainability revolution in the global financial industry is quietly gathering pace. A range of financial institutions are beginning to incorporate sustainable development considerations in their financial decision-making. Investors increasingly realize the need for such forward-looking approach to protect the global economy from climate-induced financial distress.
France recently introduced the world’s first mandatory climate disclosure requirements for institutional investors. The sovereign wealth fund of Norway is divesting from coal. South Africa has incorporated sustainable development into listing requirements on its stock exchange. The new banking regulations in Brazil require accounting for environmental risk. The Swedish government is pushing an ambitious sustainability agenda featuring a series of proposals aimed at improving information for investors.
Private financial companies are also preparing to act decisively on the sustainability front. Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, is launching a fossil-fuel-free index. Axa, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, has pledged to divest from coal. Altogether, institutions worth more than $2.6 trillion have committed to divest from fossil fuels.
Axa’s CEO Henri de Castries said that divesting from coal helps remove risk from investment portfolios and contributes to building a more sustainable society. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney recently said in a speech at Lloyd’s of London that a delayed transition to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius would increase risks to financial stability.
McKinsey and the Carbon Trust have estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the value of fossil-fuel companies could be endangered because of a “carbon bubble,” or an overvaluation of fossil-fuel reserves. The European Parliament has established an informal cross-party grouping, called the Carbon Group, which aims to tackle the carbon bubble and promote sustainable finance. Within the European council, a number of countries, most notably Sweden and France, are working for greater integration of sustainability metrics into financial markets.
The solar PV industry could employ 9.7 million people by 2030, more than 10 times as many as it does today. Jobs in wind power could grow to 7.8 million over the same period, according to a new study.
The investment necessary to move toward 100% renewable energy by 2050 would be more than covered by future savings in fuel costs, according to a new study by Greenpeace, researched in collaboration with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR).
World Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook 2015 also predicts that more jobs would be created in the energy sector – with the solar industry alone employing as many people in the future as the coal industry does today.
The report examines the current state of energy supply, the political challenges of maintaining global temperatures below critical levels and the increasing benefits and breakthroughs of renewable energy that could lead to a 100% sustainable energy future.
“Dynamic change is happening in energy supply, but the change needs to happen faster,” Greenpeace states. “This energy [r]evolution scenario proposes a pathway to a 100% sustainable energy supply, ending CO2 emissions and phasing out nuclear energy, and making redundant new oil exploration in the arctic and deep sea waters such as off the coast of Brazil. It also demonstrates that this transformation increases employment in the energy sector.”
Within 15 years, renewables’ share of electricity could triple from 21% today to 64% — almost two thirds of global electricity supply could come from renewable energy, accordintg to Greenpeace. Even with the rapid development of countries like Brazil, China and India, CO2 emissions could fall from the current 30 gigatonnes a year to 20 gigatonnes by 2030, the study finds.
With regards to jobs, the solar PV industry could employ 9.7 million people by 2030, more than 10 times as many as it does today. Jobs in wind power could grow to 7.8 million over the same period.
Sven Teske of Greenpeace, the lead author of the report, says, “The solar and wind industries have come of age and are cost-competitive with coal. It is very likely they will overtake the coal industry in terms of jobs and energy supplied within the next decade.”
“It’s the responsibility of the fossil fuel industry to prepare for these changes in the labor market and make provisions. Governments need to manage the dismantling of the fossil fuel industry which is moving rapidly into irrelevance.”
Teske adds that every dollar invested in new fossil fuel projects “is high risk capital which might end up as stranded investment.”
The necessary investment is more than covered by savings in future fuel costs. The average additional investment needed in renewables until 2050 is about $1 trillion a year, the report calculates. Because renewables don’t require fuel, the savings over the same period are $1.07 trillion a year, more than meeting the costs of the required investment. The study says the cross-over point could occur between 2025 and 2030.
“We must not let lobbying by vested interests in the fossil fuel industry stand in the way of a switch to renewable energy, the most effective and fairest way to deliver a clean and safe energy future, so more than meet the costs of the investment,” says Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International.
“I would urge all those who say ‘it can’t be done’ to read this report and recognise that it can be done, it must be done and it will be for the benefit of everyone if it is done.”
The Paris climate summit in December will offer global leaders the opportunity to take the necessary and critical steps to fight climate change by accelerating the transformation of the world’s energy sector away from fossil fuels and towards 100% renewable energy by mid-century, Greenpeace states.
“With this Greenpeace scenario, the Paris climate agreement must deliver a long-term vision for phasing out coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy by mid-century, reaching the goal of 100% renewables with energy access for all,” Naidoo adds.
The current situation
The Greenpeace study points out that the energy sector is changing rapidly. “Renewable energy technologies have become mainstream in most countries as a result of dramatically falling prices. A global renewable energy supply is no longer science-fiction, but work in progress.”
Citing data from REN21, the report says renewables contributed 60% of new power generation worldwide last year and in some countries the share was even higher. The three main power generation technologies, solar PV, wind and hydro together added 127 GW of new power generation capacity worldwide in 2014.
This increase in market share has driven huge cost reductions, especially for PV and wind power, forcing other renewable energy technologies to reduce costs, Greenpeace says — and this despite an environment in which subsidies are weighted heavily in favor of fossil fuels, which receive a global annual subsidy of $550 billion, more than double the subsidy for renewables.
Greenpeace describes power generation as “the most dynamic sector.” Renewable energy supplied 21% of electricity generation in 2012, with hydropower being the main renewable source. Heating and transport lag behind. The number of electric vehicles worldwide doubled year on year, however, although the number remains small at 665,000. E-mobility and recent developments in battery storage, including significant cost reductions, could herald a change in the role of renewable energy in the transport sector, the study says.
While the emissions landscape is changing rapidly, fossil fuels still account for 81.2% of the world’s primary energy supply. Nevertheless, in 2014, for the first time in 40 years, global energy-related CO2 emissions remained stable in spite of continued economic growth, thanks mainly to declining coal consumption in China. If global mitigation efforts are strengthened, Greenpeace states, this trend will continue.
The organization warns, thought that the transition to renewables needs to happen more quickly if it is to keep pace with the growth in energy demand and the necessary replacement of fossil fuel-based energy supply.
Johannesburg – Recent development plans show that South Africa has no intention of scaling down on its coal dependency to provide the country with energy.
Yet South Africa will chair a critical negotiating group this year at the climate summit in Paris and be part of UN talks to try to force nations to cap their fossil fuel usage.
The governments of more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the threat of climate change. South Africa will head the G77 + China group that is pushing for a strong treaty at the talks.
Ferrial Adam, a climate change analyst at environmental group 350.org, said: “South Africa says one thing on the international arena but has a whole other domestic policy.”
She said that while the departments of environmental affairs and international relations and cooperation coordinated the international talks, the department of energy was responsible for determining what kind of energy South Africa would use.
“And the departments don’t talk to each other,” she said.
Adam said policymakers in South Africa were still stuck in the country’s old ways of doing business. And that meant always going back to coal, because it was perceived to be cheap and well understood.
“While renewables have been growing in South Africa, it is still a measly amount. It simply is not good enough,” she said.
Dr Agathe Maupin, a researcher at the SA Institute of International Affairs, said South Africa’s developmental plans – without additional coal power plants – were in line with international thinking on the climate agenda.
“Of course, South Africa is not going to comply overnight,” she said.
She added that the country’s renewable energy procurement programme was helping South Africa fulfil its international environmental commitments.
Coal is South Africa’s most important mining segment. The country’s electricity supply hinges on coal, which generates 85% of its electricity. Blessed with large coal resources, coal has traditionally been a huge driver of South Africa’s economy. The coal industry has also been hugely profitable for new black-empowered mining companies.
For the moment, South Africa’s emissions have remained steady, in large part due to the Eskom crisis, the recession and a sluggish economy.
Although emission-control legislation is in place in South Africa, fitting the necessary filters is costing cash-strapped Eskom a pretty penny.
The utility has applied for postponements of the application of new minimum emissions standards for all of its power plants, except Kusile. This is because it would cost Eskom more than R200 billion over the next 10 years to comply fully “with an attendant minimal impact on ambient air quality”, Eskom said.
Medupi’s World Bank loan stipulates that the power station must be fitted with flue gas desulphurisation, a mechanism to control emissions. But until a water-augmentation scheme comes online, there is not enough water available in the water-stressed Waterberg in Limpopo for the filter. The mechanism will treble Medupi’s water usage and cannot be installed on all six of the plant’s units until additional water is available.
And even though Medupi is carbon-capture-and-storage ready, the progress around it at this stage is nothing more than pie in the sky.
Juggernauts Medupi and Kusile will be two of the largest five coal-fired power stations in the world. And more are coming.
Another sibling is planned for Medupi in the Waterberg. Eskom’s Coal Three has President Jacob Zuma’s backing, but with the power utility’s financial woes, it has been put on the back burner.
The 4 800 megawatt coal-fired station is scheduled to be built once Medupi and Kusile are completed.
A further 2 500MW of base-load generating capacity would be sourced through independent power producers.
In December, the energy department called for proposals for the supply of 1 600MW of generating capacity by 2021.
Several mining companies are planning to build coal-fired plants in South Africa, some of which want to use their mines to feed the new power stations.
Dominique Doyle, energy policy officer at Earthlife Africa Johannesburg, said: “There simply isn’t any more room in South Africa’s carbon budget for more coal-fired power stations.
“More coal will make South Africa the laughing stock of the international negotiations, because it will show the world that South Africa cannot keep its promises.”
At the climate talks in 2009 in Copenhagen, South Africa offered what many saw as an ambitious pledge to lower its carbon emissions.
The promise sees a 34% reduction in emissions relative to the country’s “business as usual” trajectory by 2020, and 42% by 2025.
But energy analysts say that if South Africa implemented the Copenhagen pledge, there would be no room for new coal power stations in South Africa after Medupi and Kusile.
But the 2009 pledge was dependent on funding and technical support from the developed world, and analysts believe this is where South Africa’s loophole lies. So far, the developed world has offered no funding.
The thought of trying to sustain life as we know it without fresh water is unimaginable. We rely on it for food production, hydration, cooking, cleaning, hygiene, and even recreation. Water is the very center of life, the lifeblood of anything that walks, swims or flies on planet Earth. And yet, a new report from NASA says we are inching toward a world where fresh water is much more difficult to come by.
This report identified some shocking trends regarding aquifers around the globe. NASA observed thirty-seven of the world’s largest aquifers over a ten-year period from 2003 to 2013 by a satellite project called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). The results of this most recent study are sobering. Of the 37 aquifers studied, 21 are being depleted at an unsustainable rate. And of those, eight were classified as “overstressed” in the study, meaning they have little or no water recharging them at the present time. Logic would lead one to believe that, eventually, these aquifers can potentially be sucked dry. And that would obviously spell disaster for all life forms dependent on them.
One important question could not be answered by this study and that is: exactly how much water is left in the aquifers? The GRACE system can measure trends in aquifer size, but not the actual amount of water contained in each aquifer. NASA has been quick to acknowledge that there is a great deal of uncertainty in projecting exact amounts of water contained within aquifers as there is not yet a reliable method for measuring such a variable. However, these study results are still incredibly important as we can see that current water sources in aquifers are trending in the wrong direction.
Where’s All That Water Going?
Well, the water certainly isn’t leaving these aquifers on its own. Each aquifer, depending on its location on the globe, has its own unique story behind why it is being emptied at an unsustainable rate. However, whether it is for mining operations, agricultural endeavors, or sustaining a densely populated community, human activity is to blame for each and every shortage in aquifer resources observed. There’s no way around the fact that we’ve come to rely too heavily on the natural fresh water resources underground systems can provide, and we are now depleting them at an alarming rate.
Residential Water Use
Roughly two billion people around the world rely on groundwater as their source of fresh water. With aquifers currently being depleted, that means two billion people are at risk of losing the water they use for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. The most recent study conducted by NASA showed that aquifers currently being used by densely populated areas are especially being hit hard by unsustainable extractions. With no reliable aboveground fresh water resources, aquifers become critical in supplying areas such as India, Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula, and Northern Africa with fresh water. In fact, the Arabian Aquifer System which supports 60 million people was found to be the most stressed aquifer on the planet. As world population grows and shifts toward heavily populated areas, demand for fresh water for residences in those areas can only be expected to increase.
In some areas, industry is to blame for heavy aquifer extractions. For example, the Canning Basin on the west coast of Australia is currently the third most depleted aquifer. Curiously, this is also an area dominated by gold and iron ore mining as well as gas exploration and extraction. Mining and fossil fuel extraction both rely heavily on water inputs, meaning these industries stand to remove water from aquifers faster than it can be replaced by nature. These operations obviously take place where fossil fuels and valuable metals are present which is not necessarily where water resources are abundant enough to power the process. In the United States, 36 percent of oil and gas wells are located in areas experiencing aquifer stress and depletion. When industries set up shop in areas where groundwater levels are already struggling, it places all the more pressure on the aquifers supplying fresh water to the area.
Agriculture and Water
Agriculture is another major source of groundwater depletion around the world. And just as areas with heavy populations or ongoing industrial operations are observed draining aquifers, major agricultural endeavors are also observed in close relation to some depleted groundwater sources around the world. In fact, irrigation water for agriculture is the single largest cause of groundwater depletion around the world.
The most stressed aquifer in the United States is the California Central Valley Aquifer where agricultural operations are heavy. Other areas such as India rely almost exclusively on groundwater to feed their crops. Globally, agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s available freshwater, and one-third of that is used to grow the grain fed to livestock.
Animal agriculture has quickly become the most water-intensive forms of food production across the world due to the amount of water needed to not only grow feed but to hydrate animals, keep facilities clean, and carry out daily operation. In the U.S., the average dairy farm can use up to 3.4 million gallons of water per day between all of these processes. To put that into perspective, it takes around the same amount of water to produce one gallon of milk as an entire months worth of showers! The meat industry is no better in terms of water usage; the average burger requires around 1,800 gallons of water to produce.
Sadly, it is estimated that as the world’s population grows to nine billion by 2050, the number of people who consume meat and dairy worldwide is only set to increase, putting a further strain on these precious water supplies. As aquifers decrease and groundwater becomes more scarce, agriculture becomes pressed to turn out enough food for the masses, threatening food security and even increasing poverty rates around the world.
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Cape Town – South Africa’s abundance of sun and wind means the country has the potential to supply cheaper and cleaner energy. This is according to an analysis conducted by Mainstream Renewable Power, a global wind and solar company.
Mainstream’s chief executive, Dr Eddie O’Connor, said the initial analysis strongly underpins government’s investment in renewable energy.
“Not only are wind and solar power cheaper than new fossil fuel generation in South Africa but when combined, they can make a very significant contribution to the baseload power at the time of day it is most needed. The analysis also shows that the combined wind and solar resources match the average demand profile for electricity.”
O’Connor said this was significant because the wind blows and the sun shines when electricity is most needed, which did not occur regularly in other global markets.
Mainstream measured wind and solar resource data from 2013 for 18 solar sites across South Africa at different times of the day. The sites analysed represented a combined generation capacity of 42 000 megawatts, 30 000 MW wind and 12 000 MW solar. Mainstream then examined Eskom’s electricity demand data (for 2008) to understand the impact the 42GW of wind and solar generation could have in relation to meeting the country’s electricity needs.
O’Connor said analysts have indicated the average bid price for wind projects in the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.
Round one bids were accepted at 115c/kWh (kilowatt hour), round two at 100c/kWh and round three at 74c/kWh. By the time round four was reached in August last year, the bid price had dropped to 62c/kWh. The same process caused solar power to bid down from 275c/kWh in round one to 79c/kWh in round four, compared to the predicted cost of 128c/kWh for electricity from Medupi, which is designed to supply 4 764MW of renewable energy capacity in less than four years.
“Wind and solar power are quietly been piling on capacity in South Africa. The fact that these projects have almost surpassed the output of such a station in about half the time of its still-unfinished construction is hard to ignore.”
Rezco Asset Management director Rob Spanjaard said: “In the fog of confusion caused by the chaos at Eskom, sight is lost of where the national government has done really well in the area of power generation.
“Perhaps this could provide a model to get out of the morass that we are in that is dragging the whole economy down.”
Spanjaard said the state-run renewable energy programme was a leader internationally in a field of power generation and costs for renewable energy compare very favourably to the costs of a coal power and the final costs of nuclear power were forecast to be more expensive than coal.
“These renewable energy projects are very profitable to the bidders, so there are increasing numbers of groups bidding for the projects available. At last round, only 20 percent of bidding projects were selected.”
He said in the process the country received an unbelievable bargain, currently, 5 200MW had been approved at a capital cost of R168-billion. The project winners had to supply all their own capital and about 40 percent of the spend was local content and thousands of jobs have been created.
“The lessons have nothing to do with privatisation or even renewable energy. At the very least the government should analyse what has worked so spectacularly well for them in one area of power generation and apply these lessons to Eskom.”
Johan van der Berg, chief executive of the South African Wind Energy Association, said wind energy costs South Africa almost nothing. And added to this was the savings from not using coal and diesel.
“These benefits have increased significantly in the last six months, over the previous period. If we assume South Africa will be electricity constrained until 2020, it is fair to assume that an expansion of the renewable energy procurement programme will yield enhanced benefits. Just in wind energy, the community benefits over the next 20 years.”
Manie de Waal, divisional head of Sola PV at Energy Partners said renewable energy was the alternative energy source to what Eskom supplies through the grid.
“As such, it can generate cost savings as well as provide reliability during the current erratic supply South Africa experience through load shedding.”
He said the local manufacturing and installation of solar photo-voltaic (PV) units could create more than 2 000 jobs over the next three to five years.
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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – National Planning Commission (NPC) commissioner Tasneem Essop has highlighted a growing global movement against the continued use of coal as a source of energy, telling a panel discussion on Monday that South Africa’s coal-fired power station build programme and continued reliance on fossil fuels was, to some extent, the result of the entrenchment of the interest of large mineral resources firms in government. Print Send to Friend 2 0
“The introduction of democracy [in 1994] was not the end of entrenched interests of those that control the mineral resources and we [still] don’t know how to structure our economy in a way that we can evolve away from a dependence [on coal],” she commented during an
energy forum in Johannesburg organised by policy think tank Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the South African Civil Society Information Service.
This argument was reiterated by international environmental organisation 350.org regional team leader Ferrial Adam, who averred that South Africa’s official energy agenda remained informed by a “politically and economically powerful” mineral industry.
“Government is so close to the mining sector and to those in the fossil fuel sector, [and] this influences policy,” she told delegates.
Essop, who was also the head of the World Wide Fund for Nature-South Africa’s low carbon frameworks unit, further acknowledged contradictions in the NPC’s energy plan for South Africa, which supported investment in coal-fired energy but called also for a transition away from carbon fuels.
The plan does have contradictory elements, but when it was adopted in 2011 things were different…and there is now no future for coal. Hopefully the new [NPC commissioners] will take up these issues again and see that a coal future is meaningless,” she asserted.
According to Essop, South Africa’s current energy policy was misguidedly focused on how best to add immediate capacity to the grid rather than considering the longer-term climate change and environmental impacts of a coal-reliant South Africa.
Noting that there was “a bit of movement” from government in terms of the promotion of renewable energy through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, she argued that this was not at sufficient scale.
“I’m certain that a crisis is one of the best ways to catalyst short-termism; we’re seeing reaction by the government and public for a solution, [but] we don’t care how [we arrive at the solution], we just want load-shedding to stop,” Essop said. She further believed that South Africa lagged a global trend that saw movement away from the use of fossil fuels as a long-term energy source and a divestment by companies of their coal assets.
South African civil society also remained largely unengaged on this issue and did not adequately lobby government towards a more renewable energy-focused policy, she added.
“Civil society needs to do something in this space. When looking at the [global] trends related to coal, there are more and more financial institutions that have signalled they will no longer invest in coal, so why are we not seeing this trend reflected back home?” she posed.
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