Climate Change, Development and Energy Problems in South Africa: Another world is possible

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Much of South Africa is already arid or semi-arid and climate change is expected to increase temperatures and droughts and add to pressure on limited water supplies. Poor people will be hardest hit. The South African government has been commendably vocal in calling for rich countries to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Yet South Africa is also part of the problem as the largest emitter of GHGs on the continent. South Africa's dependency on coal-fired power stations results in very high per capita energy use, yet still 30% of citizens do not have access to electricity. Most emissions come from just two companies, Eskom and Sasol. The report argues that conventional fossil-fuel powered development is both unsustainable in terms of climate change, and is also failing the poor. Yet South Africa has enormous untapped potential for solar power, wind and other renewable energies. Eskom and Sasol both claim to take climate change seriously and have strategies to diversify energy supply, but in practice they continue to scale-up production based on coal. This report argues that government must get serious about implementing its renewable energy targets and keep Eskom and Sasol to their word. Earthlife Africa is expert in analysing the energy sector and Oxfam International has contributed information about climate change impacts on poor communities.
  20   CLIMATE CHANGE, DEVELOPMENT AND ENERGY PROBLEMS IN SOUTH AFRICA: ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE.  Earthlife Africa Jhb  CONTENTS  Abbreviations 1Foreword 2Executive summary 4Introduction 8The long road to realising change 10South Africa’s dilemma 14Climate change in South Africa 17The face of climate change 24Is government response to climate change adequate? 29The obstacles 34 Another world is possible 37Conclusion 45 Afterword 47Bibliography 48  1  ABBREVIATIONS  Asgisa  Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa BCLMP  Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem Programme CDM  Clean Development Mechanism CDP  Carbon Disclosure Project CO 2  Carbon Dioxide CTL  Coal to Liquid DEAT  Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism GDP  Gross Domestic Product GEAR   Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy  GHG   Greenhouse gases GWC  Growth Without Constraints GWh  Gigawatt hour HLG   High Level Group IPCC  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  JSE  Johannesburg Securities Exchange KWh  Kilowatt hour LTMS  Long Term Mitigation Scenarios NCCS  National Climate Change Strategy  NEMA   National Environmental Management Act NGO  Non-governmental Organisation OCGT  Open-Cycle Gas Turbines RBS  Required By Science RDP  Reconstruction and Development Programme TAC  Treatment Action Campaign UNFCCC  United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  2 FOREWORD The scientic verdict is in; our planet is heating up and human activity is the cause. We already see indications of a dire future, with the Arctic ice sheet melting at rates faster than scientists predicted, and methane already bubbling up from the ocean oor. In South Africa, we already see changes in species distribution patterns, and indications of changes to  wind and rainfall patterns. Respected scientists such as Dr. James Hansen 1   warn that the point of no return is almost upon us — the point at which Earth experiences runaway climate change — and we will be powerless to prevent it. What happens then? This report is sobering reading. It outlines the impacts that can be expected of climate change to both natural environments and human populations. While we still don’t know what the localised impacts will be, for example exactly  what rainfall changes to expect in Colesberg or Tzaneen, we do have a good sense of the broader general trends. This report charts those trends: South Africa will become hotter and drier over the interior, agricultural productivity and production patterns will change, and we will see species loss in many areas, including large protected areas such as the Kruger National Park. The impacts to health are frightening. Not only will we face a future with less available water (with consequences for hygiene and health) but many disease-causing organisms, such as malaria-carrying mosquitoes and water-borne pathogens, are likely to expand their territories and further impact on human well-being. We know that climate change will impact negatively on already stressed natural systems. Over the last century, South Africa’s environment has been systemically degraded, with specic and severe impacts in Apartheid’s homeland and township areas. Forced resettlements resulted in localised overpopulation, with too many people relying on too few resources, and urban townships in Johannesburg were placed downwind of toxic mine dumps. These areas remain immersed in deep poverty and inequality to this day. The poor of South Africa have endured a century of environmental pollution, from industrial poisoning of the air and groundwater in the  Vaal Triangle and Durban South, to diminishing livelihoods in Craigieburn and Bodibe.  As South Africa’s climate changes because of rising global emissions of greenhouse gases, the  worst effects will be in such already degraded local environments. It is South Africa’s poor, the majority of the population, who will be the hardest hit. On the contrary, South Africa’s white population, and the rising black elite and middle class in the years since democracy, have largely been able to live in pleasant environments and escape from industrial pollution and they are less  vulnerable to climatic shocks.  With 30% of households currently without access to electricity, any response to climate change  will have to take into account the effect of rising energy costs on poor households. Some immediate adaptation steps would be to signicantly increase Free Basic Electricity, start constructing low-income housing in an energy efcient manner, promote urban gardening, and institute a Basic Income Grant.The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) has the responsibility for not only—somehow—reducing South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions, but also continuing to play a major leadership role in persuading the rest of the world to cut emissions, and protecting South Africans from current environmental destruction. It is impossible not to empathise with DEAT’s ofcials. This is a massive task with a very tight deadline; the current thinking is that global emissions must
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