NOTE: In June 2021, the Presidential Climate Commission recommended that the country's NDC be strengthened to 350-420 MtCO2e (incl. LULUCF), see our analysis here for details.
South Africa published a draft of its updated NDC in March 2021, which would strengthen the country’s target range for 2030: the upper end is now 28% lower than in the previous NDC, the lower end is unchanged. This would likely increase the CAT’s rating to “Insufficient” based on the range’s upper limit. The NDC is open for public consultation until the end of April 2021.
While the draft version increases South Africa’s climate ambition towards 2030 and increases clarity, transparency and understanding, the target range is not yet likely to be in line with the Paris Agreement 1.5˚C temperature goal. The CAT will provide an updated assessment once South Africa submits a final version of the updated NDC to the UNFCCC.
Under the CAT current policy projections, considering the potential impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we estimate South Africa’s emissions are likely to fall within the updated target range by 2030. This decrease in emissions could be further strengthened and sustained if the government were to implement more stringent climate policies and a ‘green’ economic recovery and shift away from the carbon-intensive investments set out in some of its COVID-19 recovery plans.
CAT analysis of NDC update
South Africa published a draft version of its updated NDC in March 2021 for public consultation until the end of April 2021. The proposed NDC update represents progress beyond its previous submission but may still not be compatible with limiting global warming to 2˚C above pre-industrial levels, let alone with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit.
In its updated NDC draft, South Africa commits to limiting absolute emissions level in the range of 398–440 MtCO2e (incl. LULUCF) by 2030. The upper limit was changed downwards compared to the NDC of 2016, the lower limit remained unchanged. It is not clear to us which Global Warming Potential (GWP) is used to calculate the 398-440 MtCO2 range. Our analysis assumes these figures are based on AR4 values (see Assumptions section below).
Assuming LULUCF remains at the average level over 2005–2015 (-16 MtCO2e), the draft version of the updated NDC of 2021 translates to an emissions level of between 414–456 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF. The updated draft NDC does not specifically mention whether the emissions range is an unconditional target, but the CAT interprets it as such.
South Africa states that the upper limit of the new target range by 2030 is 28% below the upper limit of its previous NDC of 2016 target range for 2030 (614 Mt CO2e, incl. LULUCF). In its NDC, South Africa indicates that the revision of the upper limit is primarily determined by fair share considerations but does not provide details on how this was determined (e.g., sectoral contributions). The lower limit remains unchanged.
Depending on whether one analyses the upper or lower level of the emissions range for 2030, South Africa’s updated NDC would be rated as “Insufficient” (upper level) or “2°C compatible” (lower level). This rating would be based on the upper end of the NDC range, i.e., the minimum level of ambition South Africa would commit to under the updated 2021 NDC. The new NDC target would fall within the CAT’s “Insufficient” category, one step up from its previous, “Highly Insufficient” rating.
The CAT current policy projections, considering the potential impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, estimate South Africa’s emissions are likely to fall within the updated target range by 2030 (423-457 Mt CO2e, excl. LULUCF). This decrease in emissions could be further strengthened and sustained if the government were to implement more stringent climate policies and a ‘green’ economic recovery and shift away from the carbon-intensive investments set out in some of its COVID-19 recovery plans.
South Africa refers to the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the Green Transport Strategy, enhanced energy efficiency programmes, and the recently implemented carbon tax as key pillars for implementing its updated (draft) NDC. South Africa also emphasises the need for financial support by the international community as specified by the Paris Agreement. The CAT considers the stringent implementation of the IRP and the related just transition as the key success factors for achieving South Africa’s NDC. No additional targets have been specified in the updated NDC draft.
South Africa intends to commit to a net zero CO2 target (“net zero carbon emissions”) by 2050 as part of a visionary statement in its Low-Emissions Development Strategy 2050 submitted to the UNFCCC. In this context, the National Planning Commission is in the process of developing a common, 2050, vision for South Africa and will subsequently update its targets. Given the preliminary nature of this statement, and the lack of detailed information, the CAT cannot evaluate the alignment of the updated NDC target range with the upcoming net zero CO2 target.
South Africa intents to submit a second NDC in 2021 and emphasises that its submission will be an update to its first NDC submitted in 2015.
Global Warming Potential (GWP)
It is unclear which GWP values have been used to calculate the target range of the draft version of the updated NDC. The draft notes that the NDC of 2021 is based on the latest inventory report, which uses SAR values and will transition to using AR5 in 2024.
In its first NDC of 2016, South Africa’s target range was calculated using AR4 values. As the lower bound of the target range for 2030 is 398 Mt CO2e (incl. LULUCF) in both the first NDC of 2016 and the draft update of 2021, we assume that South Africa has continued to use AR4 values for these figures, notwithstanding the values used in its inventory report.
We have not assessed the impact of changing to AR5 values; however, South Africa notes that this change is likely to increase total emissions by 10-20 Mt CO2.
We have assumed a ten-year historical average for LULUCF emissions based on national inventory data from 2005-2015 (i.e., -16 Mt CO2e) to obtain total emission levels excl. LULUCF (i.e., 414–456 Mt CO2e).