South Africa

Overall rating

Policies and action
against modelled domestic pathways

< 3°C World

NDC target
against modelled domestic pathways

Almost Sufficient
< 2°C World

NDC target
against fair share

< 3°C World
Climate finance
Not applicable
Net zero target



Comprehensiveness not rated as

Information incomplete
Land use & forestry
Not significant

Policies and action
against modelled domestic pathways


We rate South Africa’s current policies and actions as “Insufficient”. The “Insufficient” rating indicates that South Africa’s climate policies and action 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.

Under these current policies, South Africa will not achieve the necessary emissions reductions needed to meet its NDC target range for 2030.

Despite a range of measures passed in July 2022, the energy crisis has persisted in South Africa with load-shedding reaching record highs. Additional measures are being taken to reform the power sector, including the government taking over some of Eskom’s debt, and procurement processes for renewables and controversial fossil gas generation capacity are ongoing.

The Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET IP), presented in November 2022, indicates the power sector will receive the bulk of the USD 8.5bn investment package from donor countries. However, the Governments of South Africa and the donor countries have expressed concerns that the plans under the agreement to retire coal plants may be delayed amid the energy crisis.

An updated IRP is expected this year but has already faced delays. However, this has not stopped the private sector from investing in renewables – the country hit a new solar investment record in 2023, importing over USD 650m in solar cells, panels and modules in the first half of 2023, up from USD 345m in all of 2022. The pending IRP update could build on this momentum from the private sector to accelerate renewables.

To take advantage of increasing domestic and international demand for renewable and storage technologies, the government released the South African Renewable Energy Masterplan (SAREM) for public comment in July 2023. The plan aims to develop industrial value chains for these technologies within South Africa to drive development and create jobs.

If considering South Africa’s planned but not yet implemented policies, our rating of policies and actions would go up to “1.5°C compatible”. The stringent implementation of proposed economy-wide and sector-specific policy measures would enable South Africa to achieve at least the top end of its NDC range, failling within the current range.

The CAT estimates South Africa’s emissions under current policies are on track to reach 462–502 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF by 2030, equivalent to 7–14% below 2010 levels excluding LULUCF. Under these current policy projections, South Africa’s emission levels in 2030 will be above the upper bound of the updated NDC target range for the same year (around 25–65 MtCO2e higher).

The range of our latest projections have decreased slightly compared to our previous projection from September 2022. This is due to a slight revision of historical data using the latest government reported inventory data for 2007 to 2020 and updated estimates of 2021 from PRIMAP (see ‘Assumptions’ section) (DFFE, 2023; Gütschow & Pflüger, 2023).

We further estimate that emission levels could decrease to as low as 404 MtCO2e excluding LULUCF by 2030 if South Africa were to implement its planned policies, including the expansion plans for the renewable electricity procurement, the accelerated switch to low-carbon mode of transport, energy efficiency measures, and the carbon tax. Under these planned policies projections, South Africa would reach the upper bound of its 2030 NDC target range.

These findings emphasise the emissions reduction potential of a stringent implementation of proposed economy-wide and sector-specific policy measures.

Recovery response to the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated South Africa’s health, social and economic challenges. After an economic downturn of 6% of GDP in 2020, the International Monetary Fund reported a recovery of 5% of GDP in 2021 (IMF, 2023b). Economic recovery was dampened in 2022 due to the global fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more frequent and prolonged power outages and severe floods (IMF, 2023a).

The CAT estimates a drop in emissions in 2020 of 6% below 2019 levels due to a drastic slowdown of domestic economic activity and international trade. The CAT estimates a 1% uptick in emissions between 2020 and 2021.

The South African government introduced several support programmes in direct response to the immediate COVID-19 crisis and released a ‘Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan’ in October 2020 (Government of South Africa, 2021a; IMF, 2020). The plan comprised a range of both low-carbon and high-carbon recovery measures. High-carbon measures included the procurement of emergency electricity capacity in a technology-neutral auction, several measures to promote mining operations without specific conditions for low-carbon operations, and promotion of its liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) infrastructure. Low-carbon measures included further support for energy efficiency retrofits and promotion of low-carbon urban public transport.

A tracking tool published in 2021 indicates the South African government has spent only around 3% of all recovery spending totalling USD 2.5bn on deliberately low-carbon measures (Global Recovery Observatory, 2021).

South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic overall stands in contrast to domestic and international calls for a ‘green’ and low-carbon economic recovery (Climate Action Tracker, 2020; IEA/IMF, 2020).

Recent developments on cross-sectoral policies
In October 2023, South Africa’s National Assembly approved the Climate Change Bill, which would still need approval from the National Council of Provinces and the President (Centre for Environmental Rights, 2023; Republic of South Arica, 2023). The draft Climate Change Bill was originally released in June 2018 for public consultation and only formally introduced to Parliament in February 2022 (Government of South Africa, 2021c, 2022a).

If passed, the Bill would be a significant step forward for South Africa, making its NDC legally binding. Under the legislation, the Minister responsible for Environmental Affairs together with the Ministerial Committee on Climate Change established by the Bill would have to set sectoral emission targets for each GHG emitting sector in line with the national emission target every five years and carbon budgets would be allocated to significant GHG emitting companies. Carbon budgets would put a cap on emissions and make it mandatory for companies to constrain their emissions. However, the Bill has been criticized for relying on intended measures by the National Treasury to levy fees for those who emit in excess of their set carbon budgets, allowing emitters to “pay to pollute” (Centre for Environmental Rights, 2023).

South Africa adopted a carbon tax in February 2019 covering fossil fuel combustion emissions, industrial processes and product use emissions, and fugitive emissions such as those from coal mining (Climate Home News, 2019; Reuters, 2019). The tax was implemented in June 2019 (KPMG, 2019).

Recent analysis indicates that the carbon tax currently does not effectively contribute to emission reductions given the low levy in comparison with other carbon prices, generous basic allowance and other available exemptions such as the use of offset credits (Szabo, 2021).

A basic tax-free threshold for around 60% of emissions and additional allowances for specific sectors would result in tax exemptions for up to 95% of emissions during the first phase originally planned to go until 2022. While the full carbon tax rate is proposed to be R120/tCO2e (US$ 8/tCO2e), after exemptions, the effective tax rate is expected to be between R6–48/tCO2e (US$ 0.4–3/tCO2e) (KPMG, 2019). While the South African government adjusted the carbon tax rate before exemptions slightly upward to R144 (US$9 /tCO2e) as of January 2022, the first phase of the carbon tax roll-out will be continued until 2025 (KPMG, 2022; Steenkamp, 2022). The government further plans to reach a carbon price of US$ 30/tCO2e by 2030 and US$ 120/tCO2e by 2050.

The Carbon Tax implementation will be accompanied by a package of tax incentives and revenue recycling measures to minimise the impact of the first phase of the policy (up to 2022) on the price of electricity and energy intensive sectors including mining, iron and steel (EY, 2017, 2018).

In June 2022, the Presidential Climate Commission released its framework for a Just Transition in South Africa after extensive stakeholder consultations (Presidential Climate Commission, 2022). The framework aims to inform policy making at the nexus of climate and development issues in South Africa to enable deep, just, and transformational shifts.

International partnership to support just transition in the energy sector
At COP26, South Africa, France, Germany, UK, USA and the EU made a political declaration to establish a long-term partnership to support South Africa’s pathway to low-emissions and climate resilient development.

The partners resolved to mobilise an initial USD 8.5bn in grants, concessional loans, guarantees, private investments, and technical support in the first five-year period between 2023-2027 to accelerate the decarbonisation of South Africa’s electricity system to achieve the most ambitious NDC target, support a just transition that protects vulnerable workers and communities, and support green industrialisation, including green hydrogen and low-carbon transport technologies (Farand, 2021; Government of South Africa, 2021d). The South African Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) builds on a country-led, donor-supported process by the South African government, putting a distinct focus on a just transition, including retraining and supporting coal workers.

In November 2022, the Government of South Africa presented the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan (JET IP) for 2023 to 2027 (The Presidency of South Africa, 2022). The vast majority of the USD 8.5bn is planned for the electricity sector (USD 7.7bn), with USD 6.9bn going to electricity infrastructure. The JET IP indicates transmission and distribution infrastructure will be prioritised to enable the uptake of renewables and leverage large-scale private sector investment in renewables.

Outside the electricity sector, USD 200m is tagged for “new energy vehicles” (NEVs), with a focus on battery electric vehicles, and USD 700 m will go to green hydrogen. The JET IP estimates the total financing needs of the low-carbon transition at USD 98.7bn. A more comprehensive implementation plan is expected to be launched in November 2023.

However, uncertainty remains on the timeline for coal plant retirements amid the energy crisis, and many have raised concerns on the implementation of promised retraining for impacted coal workers (Civillini, 2023; Molelekwa, 2023). There is also concern that the plan could add to South Africa’s already significant debt burden, with only about 4% of the USD 8.5 bn provided as grants (Civillini, 2023; The Presidency of South Africa, 2022).

While South Africa announced the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) at COP26, the government has not joined any of the Glasgow sectoral initiatives.

In Glasgow, four sectoral initiatives were launched to accelerate climate action on methane, the coal exit, 100% EVs and forests. At most, these initiatives may close the 2030 emissions gap by around 9% - or 2.2 GtCO2e, though assessing what is new and what is already covered by existing NDC targets is challenging.

For methane, signatories agreed to cut emissions in all sectors by 30% globally over the next decade. The coal exit initiative seeks to transition away from unabated coal power by the 2030s or 2040s and to cease building new coal plants. Signatories of the 100% EVs declaration agreed that 100% of new car and van sales in 2040 should be electric vehicles, 2035 for leading markets, and on forests, leaders agreed “to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030”.

Signed? Included in NDC? Taking action to achieve?
Methane No N/A N/A
Coal Exit No N/A N/A
Electric vehicles No N/A N/A
Forestry No N/A N/A
Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance No N/A N/A

Energy supply

South Africa’s ongoing energy crisis and recently-announced plans to address it
South Africa’s power sector faces a severe undersupply of generation, exacerbated by its aging coal fleet, corruption, and sabotage. South Africa has 54 GW of installed capacity; however, the energy availability factor was less than 60% on average in 2022 (CSIR, 2023). Eskom, South Africa’s public utility, has had to resort to load-shedding (planned, rotational blackouts) to avoid the collapse of the power grid for over a decade (Ferragamo, 2023). Substantial financial, structural and operational challenges within Eskom have stalled progress towards a stable power grid, with load-shedding reaching record highs in 2023.

This persistent load-shedding has significant consequences for people’s lives and livelihoods. One study published by the South African Reserve Bank found the load-shedding in 2022 likely impacted GDP growth by -0.7 to -3.2% (Janse van Rensburg & Morema, 2023).

To address Eskom’s systemic challenges, President Ramaphosa appointed an Eskom Sustainability Task Team in December 2018 (Reporter, 2018).

Eskom has continuously received increasing government bailouts over the last several years. receiving around USD 3.8bn for FY 2020/2021 (National Treasury, 2023). The current level of debt amounts to about R 423bn (USD 22.5bn), putting the financial sustainability of Eskom and its ability to ensure stable energy supply and successfully manage the transition to a low-carbon electricity system at high risk (Eberhard, 2021).

In February 2023, the government announced plans to provide Eskom with debt relief equivalent to over half of the company’s debt over the next three years to enable investment and maintenance of the power system, providing the first payment in August (Mukerjee, 2023; National Treasury, 2023).

In July 2022, President Ramaphosa announced a range of actions to address the South African electricity crisis (Ramaphosa, 2022), including the following measures:

  • Acceleration of renewable procurements by the South African government, including the doubling of Bid Window 6 capacity to 5.2 GW of renewable capacity; however, only 1 GW for solar was awarded, and 3.2 GW planned for wind were cancelled due to grid capacity limits
  • Further interventions and support for Eskom
  • Easing of distributed generation regulations by, among other measures, removing licencing requirements for distributed energy generation
  • Introduction of feed-in tariffs for rooftop solar by commercial and residential customers
  • Several measures to transform the South African power grid, including the unbundling of generation, transmission, and distribution.

These measures have been implemented to mixed degrees. The change of the licencing threshold from 1 MW to 100 MW, followed by complete removal of thresholds in December 2022, has increased the pipeline of distributed generation projects to 10 GW as of May 2023. According to the government’s 2023/2024 first quarter update, the pipeline of private sector embedded generation capacity has grown to more than 10 GW, though it is unclear how much of this is renewable capacity (The Republic of South Africa, 2023).

The Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) towards 2030
One of South Africa’s key policies to reduce emissions and address the energy crisis is the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010–2030 (Department of Energy, 2011). The Cabinet originally introduced the IRP in 2010 and later updated the plan in 2019 (IRP2019) (Department of Energy, 2019). The IRP serves as the government’s capacity expansion plan for the electricity sector until 2030 and contains targets for all technologies, including renewable energy technologies.

The IRP sets an overall emissions constraint of 275 MtCO2/year for electricity generation after 2024, meaning that the total emissions from electricity generation should not be higher than this threshold; this has been an important instrument supporting the inclusion of renewable energy capacity targets.

The IRP2019 assumes old coal power plants will be decommissioned according to their 50-year design life, implying over 35 GW (of 42 GW currently operating) of Eskom’s coal generation capacity will be decommissioned by 2050 (5.4 GW by 2022 and 10.5 GW by 2030). According to the Global Energy Monitor, however, only less than 1.2 GW have been retired as of July 2023 (Global Energy Monitor, 2023).

Further, according to the IRP2019, the 5.7 GW of coal capacity currently under construction would be completed and another 1.5 GW of new coal capacity would be commissioned by 2030. Recent analysis suggests that these planned coal power plants will be significantly more expensive than their low-carbon alternatives and unfinanceable (Ireland & Burton, 2018; Paton, 2018; PCC, 2023).

Coal capacity additions are not in line with a decarbonisation of the global power sector to meet the Paris Agreement targets. Recent analysis by the Climate Action Tracker shows South Africa needs to cut its coal power reliance significantly by 2030 and phase it out by 2040 to be compatible with the 1.5°C temperature limit. The significant volume of coal capacity to be decommissioned marks a significant shift away from previous planning, although South Africa does not yet have a coal phase-out plan.

The Government’s IRP2019 capacity planning until 2030 includes no new nuclear capacity procurement but suggests extending the operational lifetime of the Koeberg nuclear power plant by 20 years, which was earlier expected to retire in 2024. Policy Position 8 of the IRP2019, however, emphasises the need for a nuclear build programme to the extent of 2.5 GW, which is not reflected in the actual capacity planning until 2030. The Government launched a Request for Information (RFI) to commence preparations for a new nuclear build programme in June 2020 (Eberhard, 2020). The Minister of Energy and Minerals stated in March 2023 that a request for proposals would be issued for the build programme by the end of the year (Laurence, 2023). Uncertainty remains on the Government’s intentions to support nuclear capacity in the future.

At the same time, the IRP2019 increases the target for installed renewable capacity five-fold by 2030 compared to today, to 31.2 GW (an additional 15.8 GW for wind and 7.4 GW for solar by 2030). This figure is about a third of total electricity generation in 2030 (Department of Energy, 2019).

The next update of the IRP was originally planned for March 2023, but there have been delays. The Cabinet has now been consulted on the updated IRP, but as of October 2023 it has yet to be released for public comment.

The Presidential Climate Committee (PCC) has published its recommendations for the plan based on modelling that considers least cost options and carbon budget constraints (PCC, 2023). The PCC concludes a least cost electricity system is based on variable renewable energy, storage from batteries and pumped hydro, and peaking support (PCC, 2023). The PCC indicates that it expects the updated IRP to include 50-60 GW of new renewable power by 2030 and that the balance of evidence is in favour of no new coal. The question of whether fossil gas is best suited to supply some uncertain amount of peaking support is left open. The PCC recommends further studies such as on fossil gas price uncertainty, and fossil gas supply and demand, to determine the need.

Recent analysis by the Climate Action Tracker shows that though a small amount of fossil gas would be 1.5°C compatible in 2030, it must be entirely phased out by 2035. Rather than investing in short-term options, South Africa can prioritise long-term solutions, such as renewable energy and battery storage, to meet its energy needs.

Renewables procurement only slowly increasing pace and fossil gas on the rise
At the end of 2022, installed renewable capacity totalled 10.5 GW (IRENA, 2023). Despite the success of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) in generating interest in renewable energy project development—with all bidding rounds significantly over-subscribed—there have been considerable delays in bid rounds and in connecting the procured renewable projects to the grid over time.

While renewable energy procurement processes have not accelerated at a significant pace, there are signs the deployment of renewables is beginning to ramp up – especially through private-developed distributed generation projects. South Africa’s import of solar PV components has significantly increased in 2023, driven by private sector investment (Jacobs, 2023; Kuhudzai, 2023b). In the first half of the year, South Africa imported over USD 650m in solar cells, panels and modules, up from USD 345m in all of 2022.

The latest completed bid round for renewable energy projects, Bid Window 6, closed with five solar projects in December 2022, with a sixth solar project added in March 2023 to bring the total bid capacity to 1000 MW (Department of Mineral Resources & Energy, 2022, 2023).

No new wind project bids were awarded due to grid connection limits, despite there being 3.2 GW allocated to wind in this round. President Ramaphosa previously proposed to double Bid Window 6 capacity to 5.2 GW of renewable capacity compared to Bid Window 5 in July 2022 (Ramaphosa, 2022). The Minster of Mineral Resources and Energy announced in May 2023 that Bid Windows 7 and 8 will each target renewable energy capacity of 5 GW along with an additional request for proposals for 1.2 GW of battery storage (Shetty, 2023).

In 2020, the Independent Power Producers Office also sought technology-neutral procurement of 2 GW of emergency capacity under their Risk Mitigation Power Purchase Programme (RMPPP) to fill an immediate supply gap outlined in the IRP2019 (Creamer, 2020). However, the conditions of the request for proposals were criticised for giving fossil gas projects an advantage over renewables (Mallinson, 2021). The final preferred bidders of the RMIPPP present a mix of fossil-based and renewable technology projects (Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, 2021a, 2021b). As of May 2023, only three hybrid solar and storage projects of the RMIPPP totalling 150 MW have started construction (Murray, 2022; Omarjee, 2023). 1.2GW of the nearly 2GW of capacity procured through the programme was to come from Turkish-owned Karpowership through three floating gas-fired power stations; however, the projects have faced significant delays. Two of the three projects have not been granted environmental authorisation and concerns over the project’s costs have led to negotiations over the length of the contracts from 20 years to possibly five to ten years (Omarjee, 2023; Sguazzin, 2023).

Despite challenges and pushback to the development of fossil gas generation capacity, the government has also announced a request for proposals for an additional 3 GW of gas capacity (Minister Gwede Mantashe, 2023).

For South Africa, the share of renewables in total electricity generation would need to reach a minimum of 60% by 2030 to be compatible with the Paris Agreement according to recent analysis by the Climate Action Tracker.


Policy and planning documents for the South African industry sector generally address sustainable industrial economic development but barely mention mitigation targets for the industry sector or concrete measures for implementation. The post-2015 draft National Energy Efficiency Strategy proposes industrial sector targets for energy efficiency in 2030; however, there is no indication of implementation. (Department of Energy, 2016). Energy use from the mining and quarrying sector amounted to 185 PJ in 2015 (IEA, 2017).

The South African government intends to achieve these targets through implementing several proposed measures such as the National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA) that promotes energy efficiency measures, its associated Industrial Energy Efficiency Project (IEE) implemented between 2011–2021 that promoted energy management systems, or the Green Fund South Africa that financially supports green technology research and implementation. However, these measures may only induce small emissions reduction impacts.

South Africa is also aiming to develop value chains for renewable energy and storage technologies through the South African Renewable Energy Masterplan (SAREM), released for public comment in July 2023 (The dtic, 2023). The plan particularly aims to take advantage of increasing domestic and international demand for these technologies to drive industrial development and create jobs as part of the just transition.

There are no signs of policy-driven emissions reductions in the near future for emissions-intensive subsectors such as steel production and mining, though there has been some interest in hydrogen. The Hydrogen Society Roadmap (2021) and draft Green Hydrogen Commercialisation Strategy (2020) highlight the potential role of and steps to develop green hydrogen for use in steel production, industrial mining, mineral beneficiation, manufacturing, logistics, and other sectors (DSI, 2021; The dtic, 2022). The South African Steel and Metal Fabrication Master Plan 1.0 (2021) mentions hydrogen, along other measures, in consideration of greening the industry (The dtic, 2021). For hydrogen to decarbonise the industry sector, it must be produced using renewable energy.

Analysis by the Climate Action Tracker indicates that the steel industry’s emissions intensity would need to be reduced by about 30% in 2030 and by about 90%-100% by 2050 to be compatible with the Paris Agreement.


The Department of Transport published the country’s first Green Transport Strategy (GTS) 2018–2050 in 2018 (Department of Transport South Africa, 2018), proposing a list of measures that should be implemented to transition the sector to a low carbon future. Analysis by the Climate Action Tracker indicates that the share of zero emissions fuels (biofuels, electricity and hydrogen) of the total domestic transport sector demand would need to increase to 20% by 2030, 50-60% by 2040, and 80%-90% by 2050 to be compatible with the Paris Agreement.

South Africa’s automotive industry contributed to over 4% of GDP in 2021 and is one of the country’s largest manufacturing sectors (NAAMSA, 2023). In 2013, the government adopted South Africa’s Electric Vehicle Industry Roadmap to introduce electric passenger vehicles (EVs) (South African Government, 2013). Three years after the adoption of the roadmap, the first EV was manufactured in South Africa with the production of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) at Mercedes-Benz’s East London plant (Venter, 2023). Since then, Toyota has also begun manufacturing PHEVs with Ford also announcing it will manufacture PHEVs in South Africa (Agbetiloye, 2023; Venter, 2021). While some progress has been made, the industry is still dominated by fossil fuel-vehicles. This creates an existential challenge for the auto industry as South Africa’s main export destinations, such as the UK and EU, shift towards EVs (NAAMSA, 2023).

On the demand-side, the total number of EVs vehicles sold in South Africa remains marginal.. In the first four months of 2023, the sale of battery EVs doubled compared to the previous year, though remained just 0.16% of new vehicle sales (Kuhudzai, 2023a). In the same time period, the sale of plug-in hybrids declined over 20%, though these make up a smaller share than battery EVs.

In May 2021, the Government of South Africa released the ‘Auto Green Paper’ for public consultation (Department of Trade Industry & Competition, 2021). The strategy aims to define South Africa’s framework for a comprehensive and long-term automotive industry transformation plan on low-carbon vehicles. No final policy proposal had been approved by Cabinet, as of September 2023.

Analysis by the Climate Action Tracker shows that the electric vehicle share in annual vehicle sales in South Africa would need to increase to 50-95% by 2030 and 90-100% by 2040 to be compatible with the Paris Agreement.

Bus Rapid Transit Systems (BRT) have initiated the main switch in modal share of passenger transport in urban areas. These have commenced operation or are currently under consideration in public transportation planning in several South African urban areas (Department of Transport, 2017). Initiatives to implement and expand BRT systems are currently taking place in eight cities and municipalities including Cape Town and Johannesburg. However, BRT still faces challenges such as competition with minibus taxis and overreliance on foreign service plans less suitable for South African cities (Hook & Weinstock, 2021).


South Africa has implemented several building regulations and codes on energy efficiency and usage in buildings for new buildings and major refurbishments of old buildings (Sustainable Energy Africa, 2017). The draft Post-2015 National Energy Efficiency Strategy foresees reductions of the final energy consumption by 33% in the residential sector and 37% in the public and commercial sector by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline (Department of Energy, 2016).

Direct and indirect building emissions per capita in South Africa are increasing (Climate Transparency, 2022). The move away from biomass use for cooking and heating towards the use of more modern appliances that require electricity, which, in turn, is largely generated by fossil fuels, might significantly increase indirect emissions without a rapid shift to renewables in the power sector.

Analysis by the Climate Action Tracker suggests that the buildings emissions intensity would need to decline by 50% for residential buildings by 2030 in comparison to 2015 values, 90% by 2040, and 100% by 2050 to be compatible with the Paris Agreement.

Although retrofitting rates in the residential and commercial buildings sector are still comparatively low, green retrofitting of existing buildings is expected to be the largest sector of the green building industry in South Africa within the next three years (World Green Building Council, 2016). It is expected that the proportion of green buildings in South African building activity will increase over the next years due to cheaper operations costs and higher returns on investments compared to conventional buildings (GBCSA, 2017; World Green Building Council, 2016). The trend towards more energy efficient buildings has been accelerating. A pending regulation on stricter building and appliances standards and certifications could potentially further stimulate this trend (Sustainable Energy Africa, 2017).

The government released a regulation for mandatory energy performance certificates in 2020 (Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, 2020). The regulation applies to four different classes of larger-scale buildings with a requirement that all buildings must to be compliant until the end of 2022 (Smith, 2021).


In 2020, agriculture accounted for nearly 10% of South Africa’s emissions, with the majority coming from livestock. Emissions from agriculture have remained fairly constant since 2000.

There is a limited number of policies in South Africa’s agricultural and forestry sector targeted at climate change mitigation. The National Climate Change Response Policy, the country’s core climate policy published in 2011, names climate smart agriculture (CSA) as a practice “that lowers agricultural emissions, is more resilient to climate changes, and boosts agricultural production” (Government of South Africa, 2011). A number of CSA activities are already in place in South Africa (Nciizah & Wakindiki, 2015), but their expected or actual mitigation impacts are not reported.

In 2018, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has published two draft agricultural policies for public comment: the draft Conservation Agriculture Policy and the draft Climate Smart Agriculture Strategic Framework (DAFF, 2018b, 2018a). Final versions of the policies do not seem to have been published.


Forestry and other land use (FOLU) in South Africa is a net sink of emissions, meaning more carbon is sequestered than emitted. This net sink has overall been increasing since 2008, reaching over 25 MtCO2e in 2020 (DFFE, 2023).

There are only a limited number of mitigation related policy measures in South Africa’s forestry and other land use sector. The 4th Biennial Update Report lists ongoing work programmes on afforestation, forest and woodland restoration and rehabilitation, grassland rehabilitation and thicket restoration.

Given the importance of the timber industry, the area of woody crops has increased over 50% since the early 1990s, and stabilised over the last decade (FAOSTAT, 2023). The planted trees are non-domestic species, and concerns about their negative impacts on water resources have been raised (Bosch & von Gadow, 1990). South Africa’s latest national inventory report indicates overall forest land has increased over the same period; however, other sources indicate the tree cover has continuously decreased (DFFE, 2023; FAOSTAT, 2023). It is unclear whether methodological differences or varying definitions are the reason for this apparent mismatch.

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