South Africa

Overall rating
Insufficient
Policies & action
Almost Sufficient
< 2°C World
Domestic target
Almost Sufficient
< 2°C World
Fair share target
Insufficient
< 3°C World
Climate finance
Not assessed
Net zero target

year

2050

Comprehensiveness not rated as

Information incomplete
Land use & forestry
Not significant

Overview

The South African government has set a new and stronger 2030 target range, but domestic policies and their successful implementation will need an additional boost to meet it. The new target represents a significant change compared to the previous target, providing a good example on how governments can increase their mitigation ambition over time. Despite being a step in the right direction, the updated target is not yet Paris Agreement compatible.

Uncertainty on the successful implementation of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019) continues to remain high, given state-owned utility giant Eskom’s unresolved financial and operational problems and the government’s mixed messages on the transition to zero carbon electricity system.

Regulatory changes and a recently completed procurement round for renewables point to some positive developments at least. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated South Africa’s health, social and economic challenges. Economic recovery measures by the government have mainly focused on carbon-intensive investments such as fossil power plants instead of prioritising an effective ‘green’ recovery across all sectors.

According to an emerging body of literature from the CAT and other institutions, investments in low-carbon technologies would enable substantial opportunities in South Africa for value chain localisation, local air pollutant reduction and job creation.

Our methods do not provide a clear answer for the need for finance for South Africa. On balance, the CAT methodology shows that provision of a small but important amount of international support is consistent with the wide range of literature on fair share contributions to meeting the Paris Agreement's goals. South Africa currently relies on foreign investments and international finance support to implement a large percentage of its climate change programmes, and the government also emphasises in its updated NDC that the implementation of its NDC will be enabled by financial support as specified in the Paris Agreement.

Overall rating
Insufficient

The CAT rates South Africa’s climate targets and policies as “Insufficient”. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that South Africa’s climate policies and commitments need substantial improvements to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit.

South Africa’s updated 2030 emissions reduction target is rated as “Almost sufficient” when compared to modelled domestic pathways, and “Insufficient” when compared with its fair-share contribution to climate action. South Africa’s targets and policies are not stringent enough to limit warming to 1.5°C. If fully implemented, South Africa’s current policies would result in emissions reductions only in line with holding global warming at—but not well below—2°C.

The updated 2030 emissions reduction target submitted to the UNFCCC in September 2021 follows the Presidential Climate Commission recommending 350-420 MtCO2e (incl. LULUCF). As previously analysed by the CAT here, the lower end of this range is close to being 1.5°C compatible.

South Africa’s 2030 NDC target has a range, of which we rate the upper end, because reaching that would comply with the NDC. Our previous method did not consider the policies and actions in the rating, and this change in the approach caused South Africa’s rating to already improve from “Highly insufficient” to overall “Insufficient” with the release of our new method in September 2021.

Policies & action:
Almost Sufficient

We rate South Africa’s policies and actions as “Almost sufficient”. The “Almost sufficient” rating indicates that South Africa’s climate policies and action in 2030 are not yet consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit but could be, with moderate improvements. If all countries were to follow South Africa’s approach, warming could be held at—but not well below—2°C.

Prior to the pandemic, the South African Cabinet finally approved the long-awaited Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019) in October 2019. The final plan marks a major shift in electricity policy away from coal towards renewables, which is remarkable for a coal-dominated country like South Africa. The timely and full implementation of the IRP2019 and other flagship policies like the Green Transport Strategy remain uncertain, given the lack of progress in recent years and missing political leadership to take required measures.

The government introduced several support programmes and emergency funds in direct response to the immediate COVID-19 health and economic crisis with ‘green’ low-carbon recovery measures only representing a small share of total spending.

The full policies and action analysis can be found here.

Domestic target:
Almost Sufficient

We rate the updated 2030 reduction target levels as “Almost sufficient” when compared to modelled emissions pathways. The “Almost sufficient” rating indicates that South Africa’s domestic target in 2030 is not yet consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit but could be with moderate improvements. If all countries were to follow South Africa’s approach, warming could be held at—but not well below—2°C.

Our methods do not provide a clear answer for the need for finance for South Africa. On balance, the CAT methodology shows that provision of a small but important amount of international support is consistent with the wide range of literature on fair share contributions to meeting the Paris Agreement's goals.

South Africa currently relies on foreign investments and international finance support to implement a large percentage of its climate change programmes, and the government also emphasises in its updated NDC that the implementation of its NDC will be enabled by financial support as specified in the Paris Agreement.

Fair share target:
Insufficient

We rate South Africa’s 2030 NDC target as “Insufficient” when compared with its fair-share contribution to climate action. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that fair share target in 2030 need substantial improvements to be consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C temperature limit. If all countries were to follow South Africa’s approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C.

CAT interprets the full NDC target as unconditional. As South Africa only needs to reach the upper end of the target range to fulfil the NDC, we rate that emissions level. If South Africa committed to meeting the lower end of its target range, the rating would change to “Almost sufficient”, but close to the border to “1.5°C Paris Agreement compatible”, when compared to modelled domestic pathways, and to “Almost sufficient” when compared to the fair share contribution.

Net zero target:
Information incomplete

The CAT currently does not evaluate South Africa’s net zero target given its preliminary nature and a lack of more detailed information. The CAT will do so once further information is communicated by the government.

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