South Africa

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

year

2050

Comprehensiveness not rated as

Information incomplete
Land use & forestry
Not significant

Historical emissions

For historical data, GHG inventory data submitted to the UNFCCC accessed via the UNFCCC data portal was used for 1990 and 1994 (UNFCCC, 2019) and the National GHG Inventory Report from 2021 for data from 2000 to 2017 (Department of Environment Foresty and Fisheries, 2021), with linear interpolation between 1990–1994 and 1994–2000.

For the years 2018 to 2022, we use growth rates from PRIMAP historical emissions applied to the 2017 inventory data points (Gütschow & Pflüger, 2022).

Important to highlight, the University of Cape Town’s technical emissions scenario analysis to inform the 2021 NDC update finds significantly lower emission levels compared to the National GHG Inventory report due to different methodologies and data sources used (Marquard et al., 2021). For 2017, for example, there is a 17 MtCO2e difference between both estimates. We currently rely on official estimates provided by the Government of South Africa as explained above.

NDC and other targets

In its 2020 emission reduction pledge, South Africa aims for a 34% reduction below BAU by 2020 including LULUCF (Department of Environmental Affairs Republic of South Africa, 2011). The emission levels included under both the upper and lower bound of the targeted reductions are provided by the explanatory note. These targets are read directly off the peak, plateau and decline (PPD) emission trajectory graph (Department of Environmental Affairs Republic of South Africa, 2011).

LULUCF sector emissions are assumed to be included in the targets because the 1997 data point in the graph matches the historical emissions including LULUCF. To obtain the emissions level excluding LULUCF, it was assumed that the LULUCF sector continues to represent a small net carbon sink with the emission level in 2030 equivalent to the average emissions from this sector over 2007–2017 (annual emissions of -16 MtCO2e). The same approach was used for the quantification of the NDC target below.

In its updated NDC of 2021, South Africa provides an absolute emissions level in the target range of 398–510 MtCO2e including LULUCF and 350–420 MtCO2e including LULUCF for 2030 (Government of South Africa, 2021c). Assuming LULUCF remains at the average level over 2007–2017 (-16 MtCO2e), this NDC translates to an emissions level of 414-526 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF in 2025 and 366–436 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF in 2030.

It is unclear which GWP values have been used to calculate the target range of the updated NDC of 2021. The NDC states that its targets are based on the latest inventory report, which uses SAR values, and that the country 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 2025 is 398 MtCO2e (incl. LULUCF) in both the first NDC of 2016 and the updated NDC of 2021, we assume that South Africa has continued to use AR4 values for these figures, notwithstanding the values used in its inventory report. Furthermore, the comparison that “the upper end of the target range in 2025 has been reduced by 17%, and the upper end of the target range in 2030 has been reduced by 32%, and the lower range by 12%” (Government of South Africa, 2021c) points to comparing both target ranges in AR4.

Current policy projections

Lower bound projection

The lower bound of the current policy projections is based on a combination of the IEA World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2020 for CO2 emissions from fuel combustion (IEA, 2020) and non-CO2 emissions from the US EPA (2019). For CO2 process emissions, we used historical data from PRIMAP and assume a direct correlation to emissions from coal-fired power plants afterwards.

The WEO2020 Stated Policies Scenario for CO2 emissions from fuel combustion assumes full implementation of the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan with COVID-19 delay. For this reason, we do not further need to adjust installed energy capacities by 2030 as in past CAT assessments for South Africa using the Current Policies Scenario available in previous WEO reports.

The biofuels mandate has been furthermore quantified for informative purposes; however, it has not been included in the current policy projections due to the ongoing uncertainty of its implementation as of October 2021.

For non-CO2 emissions, US EPA (2019) projections until 2030 were used. For the CO2 process emissions, historical CO2 process emissions data from PRIMAP (Gütschow & Pflüger, 2022) was used to check the correlation to emissions from coal-fired power plants. For projections, CAT assumes that this correlation will continue, meaning that we assume CO2 process emissions to develop with the same trend as the CO2 emissions from coal fired power plants in our current policy projections.

Upper bound projection

The upper bound of the current policy projections is based on the ‘existing policies scenario with reference growth rate’ by the University of Cape Town’s technical emissions scenario analysis to inform the 2021 NDC update (Marquard et al., 2021). The ‘existing policy scenario’ assumes the full implementation of the IRP2019, a new world-scale crude refinery coming online in 2028 in line with government procurements, other crude refining capacity and coal-to-liquids capacity available until 2050, and the forecasted modernisations introduced by the 1st and 2nd National Waste Management Strategies.

We harmonise the scenario’s growth rates for total emissions excluding land use emissions to the latest historical datapoint of 2021. This harmonisation process results in significantly higher final estimates for 2030 than assumed by the University of Cape Town’s ‘existing policies scenario with reference growth rate’ (518 MtCO2e compared to 479 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF). Note that the University uses GWP values from the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report (SAR), while the CAT uses GWP values from the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Planned policy projections

The planned policy projections is based on the ‘planned policies scenario with reference growth rate’ by the University of Cape Town’s technical emissions scenario analysis to inform the 2021 NDC update (Marquard et al., 2021). Beyond the measures included under the ‘existing policy scenario’ (see section above), the ‘planned policy scenario’ assumes the full implementation of recently announced IRP2019 expansion plans, the Green Transport Strategy, the draft post-2015 National Energy Efficiency Strategy, and the carbon tax.

We harmonise the scenario’s growth rates for total emissions excluding land use emissions to the latest historical datapoint of 2021. This harmonisation process results in significantly higher final estimates for 2030 than assumed by the University of Cape Town’s ‘existing policies scenario with reference growth rate’ (416 MtCO2e compared to 383 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF). Note that the University uses GWP values from the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report (SAR), while the CAT uses GWP values from the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Global Warming Potentials values

The CAT uses Global Warming Potential (GWP) values from the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) for all its figures and time series. Assessments completed prior to December 2018 (COP24) used GWP values from the Second Assessment Report (SAR). The ‘NDC and other targets’ section above outlines the uncertainties on GWP assumed for the updated NDC target range.

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