South Africa

Overall rating
Policies & action
Almost Sufficient
< 2°C World
Domestic target
< 3°C World
Fair share target
Highly insufficient
< 4°C World
Cimate finance
Not assessed
Net zero target



Comprehensiveness not evaluated as

Information incomplete
Land use & forestry

impact on overall emissions is

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 Third Biennial Update Report from 2019 for data from 2000 to 2015, with linear interpolation between 1990–1994 and 1994–2000.

For the year 2016 and 2017, we use growth rates from IEA statistics (IEA, 2019a) for CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion applied to the 2015 inventory data point. For non-CO2 emissions and non-energy CO2 emissions, we use the same data as under current policies (see section below).

NDC and other targets

In its 2020 emission reduction pledge, South Africa aims for a 34% reduction below BAU by 2020 and 42% below BAU by 2025 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 2000–2012 (annual emissions of -17 MtCO2e). The same approach was used for the quantification of the NDC target and long-term target below.

In its NDC, South Africa provides the peak, plateau and decline (PPD) emission trajectory range of 398 MtCO2e to 614 MtCO2e including LULUCF by 2025 and 2030 (Government of South Africa, 2016).

South Africa further specified a long-term target until 2050. After PPD emission targets are set to remain stable until 2035, the PPD emission targets decrease to 212–428 MtCO2e by 2050 (Department of Environmental Affairs Republic of South Africa, 2011; Tyle, 2020).

South Africa's NDC states that AR4 is being used for the pledge quantification (Government of South Africa, 2016, p. 7). Since the NDC is based on the original PPD submitted in 2011 (Department of Environmental Affairs Republic of South Africa, 2011), it is logical to assume that the PPD is reported in AR4 as well.

Current policy projections

The pre-COVID-19 current policy projections are based on a combination of the IEA World Energy Outlook (WEO) 2019 for CO2 emissions from fuel combustion (IEA, 2019b) and non-CO2 emissions from the US EPA (2019). For CO2 process emissions, we assume a direct correlation to emissions from coal-fired power plants. The WEO2019 Current Policies Scenario for CO2 emissions from fuel combustion assumes a slightly different energy mix for the electricity supply sector and the transport sector compared to target levels of policies considered under implementation, which has been adjusted to fully reflect these policies. In general, neither the WEO2019 main report nor its annexes specify which of the policies have been included in the current policies scenario. The WEO2019 “Stated Policies Scenario” leads to very similar emissions projections for the power sector as the CAT’s projections.

As for the energy supply sector, the renewable energy capacity assumed to be installed in the WEO2019 by 2030 was adjusted to reflect the IRP2019 for all technologies such as higher levels of installed renewable capacity. 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 August 2020. For non-CO2 emissions, US EPA (2019) projections until 2030 were used. For the CO2 process emissions, historical CO2 process emissions data from EDGAR (Olivier et al., 2016) 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.

COVID-19 impact

We applied a novel method to estimate the COVID-19 related dip in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 and its impact until 2030. The uncertainty surrounding the severity and length of the pandemic creates a new level of uncertainty for current and future greenhouse gas emissions. We distil the emission intensity (GHG emissions/GDP) from the pre-pandemic current policy projections and applied it to the most recent GDP projections that account for the effect of the pandemic.

There exists a range of estimates from both national and international sources to estimate the potential impact of the pandemic on GDP (AFDB, 2020; IMF, 2020; SARB, 2020; World Bank, 2020). The IMF and South African Reserve Bank (SARB) project GDP growth rates out to 2022, while AfDB and the World Bank project GDP growth rates out to 2021.

We present the range of emissions scenarios in our graph based on maximum and minimum values for total GDP for each year using upper and lower range of GDP projections. In 2020, the lower bound is from the IMF (a GDP decrease of -8% in 2020), while the upper bound is from AfDB COVID-19 Baseline scenario (-6.3% in 2020). In 2021, the upper and lower bounds stem from the AfDB COVID-19 Baseline (-6.3% in 2020 and 2.8% in 2021) and AfDB Worst-Case scenario (-7.5% in 2020 and 1.3% in 2021), respectively. In 2022, the upper bound is from South African Reserve Bank (-7.3% in 2020, 3.7% in 2021, and 2.8% in 2022) and the lower bound from World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects (-7.1% in 2020, 2.9% in 2021, and 2.1% in 2022).

We used the growth rates from our pre-COVID-19 current policy scenario to extend those projections to 2030.

Global Warming Potentials

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).

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