COP26 in full swing: What is the latest and how is South Africa faring?

Posted by Anita Froneman on 2 November 2021

The 26th annual Conference of the Parties (COP) climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland is well underway and so far, many problems have been brought to light, but not all that many solutions.

Here’s a simplified version of what it is, where South Africa fits in and why it matters (a ‘COP26 for Dummies’, if you will).

Climate change

200 000 leaders from 196 countries are attending the convention hosted by the United Nations. Attendees are countries that form part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – a treaty that was agreed to in 1994 to combat climate change.

A large part of achieving the collective goals the countries involved have agreed to, is The Paris Agreement, an agreement adopted at COP21 in 2015, that has the goal of keeping the rise in mean global temperatures to well below 2°C. Countries are being rated on their progress in attaining this goal.

The international non-profit organization, Climate Action Tracker (CAT), analyses government action and measures it against the Paris Agreement, revealing that only one country has fulfilled its commitments, The Gambia. South Africa is listed as ‘Insufficient’.

 

Graphic: Climate Action Tracker

On the opening day, United Nations secretary-general António Guterres conveyed a grim outlook, saying that that ‘We are digging our own graves. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper,’ he added.

One issue mentioned was that most developing nations have not yet received the $100 billion in annual climate aid by 2020 that was pledged in 2010. Some of that money has been paid but the full amount might not be paid until 2023, reports the New York Times.

South Africa is one of the countries that qualify to get access to these funds, but still has a long way to go in reducing our carbon emissions. South Africa is the 12th biggest greenhouse gas emitter in the world because it generates most of its electricity by burning coal.

‘COP26 is an opportunity for South Africa to secure the funds needed to make this transition,’ says the African Climate Alliance (ACA), a youth-focused non-profit organisation advocating climate justice in South Africa. ‘Wealthy economies have committed to contributing $100 billion a year to developing countries for this transition. South Africa needs to show its ambitions to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050 to gain access to this finance.’

‘In order to reach net-zero emissions, major changes are needed in the way the country’s economy operates. Most importantly, most of our electricity should come from renewable sources such as solar, wind energy and alternatives to fossil fuels,’ ACA added.

In his weekly newsletter, President Ramaphosa expressed his commitment to combating climate change. ‘As a country, we are committed to making our fair contribution to the global climate change effort and have recently set new and more ambitious greenhouse gas emissions targets.

‘At local government level, we need to integrate climate change considerations into service delivery planning,’ President Ramaphosa added.

He said several municipalities, notably in KwaZulu-Natal, are already piloting the use of different renewable energy sources such as landfill gas to electricity, biomass, biogas and small-scale hydropower.

Graphics: Africa Climate Alliance

Picture: Unsplash

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