Climate Governance in South Africa

The CAT Climate Governance series seeks to produce a practical framework for assessing a government’s readiness - both from an institutional and governance point of view - to ratchet up climate policy and implement adequate transformational policies on the ground, to enable the required economy-wide transformation towards a zero emissions society.

Our methodology

We have set up a framework that assesses and scores a number of indicators, where we rate various aspects of governance. This allows us to establish a common basis on which to compare climate governance across countries as well as identify areas of improvement and highlight positive developments. We have applied this framework at both a national level and on key emissions-intensive sectors of the economy. In South Africa's case we have focused on the electricity and heating sector - and the industry sector.

For the purpose and overview of this series, see our Climate Governance series main page. For more detail on methodology: methodology page.

Assessment of national level readiness

South Africa’s national political commitment towards ambitious climate mitigation is evident, but leaves space for improvement. Leadership from the head of state and leading institutions could take a more substantive approach to raising policy ambition domestically, while the national climate agenda could also be expedited with increased autonomy and authority for the climate change lead agency. Passing of legislation critical for effective climate action, such as the Climate Change Bill currently under consideration by Parliament, would help clarify roles.

The institutional framework could also be improved. While South Africa benefits from having both a strong network of institutions capable of advising on decarbonisation efforts and extensive access to country-specific decarbonisation analyses, a lack of human resources and an insufficient budget for mitigation-related processes currently hinder mitigation efforts.

South Africa has not yet developed a Paris-compatible decarbonisation pathway, although it has a foundation in place to do so. The formalised development of an Enhanced Transparency Framework mechanism and ratchet-up mechanism is in progress, and components of the systems are already in operation.

In general, the government encourages broad buy-in of non-state actors in its stakeholder engagement processes but has not yet addressed the needs for a just transition, which has led to growing concerns against a shift from a coal-reliant economy. Non-state actors with opposing perspectives on climate policy have been able to drive their particular agendas.

Rating system

We analyse ten different criteria of governance under four categories that cover the key enabling factors for effective climate action. We give each a rating as outlined above (poor - neutral - advanced). For more detail on the methodology click the link below.

Ratings and Recommendations

The following section outlines the results of the analysis for each of the different categories and criteria as well as our recommendations for each category of governance.

  • Strengthen the political commitment to, and prioritisation of, climate change mitigation in national and cross-party agendas, particularly with respect to the issue’s linkages to other national priorities (poverty, unemployment, growth).
  • Pass the Draft Climate Change Bill to solidify institutional capacity and processes that will drive the implementation of ambitious climate policy.
  • Designate sectoral climate change focal points, ensure sufficient human and financial capital for them, and improve cross-sectoral coordination to eliminate delays in adopting climate policies and the weakening of their ambition (i.e. – non-mandatory carbon budget, high rate of carbon tax exemptions).
  • Strengthen the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change to successfully implement the National Climate Change Response White Paper and avoid contradicting sectoral policies.
  • Define a concrete Paris-compatible 2050 decarbonisation pathway, as well as a ratcheting up mechanism and anchor these in the Climate Change Bill.
  • Develop a standardised framework to transparently and consistently address the influence and leverage of interest groups aligned with fossil fuel industries in climate policy and legislative processes (reporting regulations, pollution prevention plans, carbon tax, carbon budget).

South Africa's Climate Governance

These tables from the report give an overview and analysis of the key factors of South Africa's governance to enable effective climate action. We look at the country's key institutions, strategies, targets and legislation, as well at a sectoral level for the electricity & heating and industry sectors.

Assessment of sectoral level readiness

The report also assesses the readiness of South Africa's electricity and heating sector - and industry. See the report for details.

Quick links

This report on South Africa is part of the CAT Climate Governance series where we look at the governance models of 6 countries and assess them using a consistent methodology. You can use the links below to find the assessments of the other 5 countries as well as information about the series itself and details on how the assessments were carried out.

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