SOUTH AFRICA’S compliance with GHG reduction targets is currently rated as “highly insufficient” by http://climateactiontracker.org/. Our national targets are ‘equivalent to a 20–82% increase on 1990 levels’, in other words, while the rest of the world is decreasing emissions, we have seen fit to increase GHG due to an emphasis on ideological rather than scientific concerns. Our GHG ranking as 18th largest emitter, is not surprising, coming one position behind the UK, but an embarrassment considering the relative size of our population.
Although our global contribution of 510.2377 tonnes CO2e or 1.13% of total emissions is far behind the world’s top emitter China, at 11735.0071 CO2e and 25.93% respectively of the total, this figure must be compared with the 24 least polluting nations, whose meek contributions are all less than 2.0022 CO2e per country and thus less than 0.00% each of the total. (see Climate Data Explorer and http://climateanalytics.org/)
Our nation’s excessive GHG contributions commit the World’s major cities to inundation by the ocean. South Africa needs to accept both liability and responsibility for the collapse of the Polar Vortex, the unstable configuration of the Antarctic Iceshelf, the melting of glaciers and permafrost, and thus the hockey stick curve showing an alarming rise in global temperatures. We are currently on track for a 1.7 meter rise in sea level by 2030, and saying this in no way describes the problems associated with complications arising from climate change.
The blame for climate change will ultimately be placed upon our nation’s leaders who have collectively committed the country to a hot global 3.4 degree C by 2100 if all countries stick to the Paris Agreement and the promise of no more than 1.5 degree temperature change beyond pre-industrial levels by 2030. In 2016, planet Earth’s temperature averaged 1.26 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages, which is dangerously close to the 1.5-degree-Celsius limit set by international policymakers. There is no guarantee when it comes to temperatures.
All this without any firm science to back up the proposition, that we can survive in such an altered climate. A global two degree rise could translate into a local six degree change. Climate change represents an existential threat. In this respect it is the ruling ANC with its Anti-Poor policy reality of ‘peak, peak and peak’, which is most responsible for the current drought and thus Day Zero.
In the future, low-lying micronations will hold us all responsible for their country’s loss of territory. As will the citizens of coastal cities inundated by rising sea-levels. Both Cape Town and Durban will experience massive losses in land mass over the ensuing decade. We are already on a path towards a worst case scenario mapped out by academics during 2008. Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa and ESKOM CEOs should shoulder most of the blame.
Under Molewa, national climate outreach programmes were cancelled, while government to civil society programmes aimed at Post-COP17 climate change sessions, and more recent UN climate sessions were not included in their budgets. We have withdrawn for all intents and purposes from our role as deal-makers during the Durban round, preferring Davos over the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
The DEAT thus appears to have decreased its spending on climate change outreach and education, a legacy of the previous administration of Jacob Zuma, while favouring coal over renewables. The latest interdict by NUMSA against IPP renewables does not bode well, any wonder since the National Environmental Management Act (NEMA) drafted to protect our environment and atmosphere, alongside the right to water, has been gutted by successive ANC ministers.
The proposed introduction of a “carbon tax” under Cyril Ramaphosa merely shifts GHG responsibility from the public to the private sector. Introducing a new form of tax revenue which fails to incorporate the carbon offsets which could generate jobs and create economic opportunity via a just transition to renewables. There are thus no incentives to offset and promote the introduction of electric vehicles, energy efficient public transport and renewables in South Africa in the foreseeable future, as the country slips to the bottom of the global rankings for energy efficiency
South Africa is responsible for 53.3170% of total GHG emissions in SADC, an economic block including Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We dominate our neighbours and as the dirtiest emitter, must take responsibility and liability for regional climate problems.
BRICS countries are in turn responsible for 40.59% of global carbon emissions alone, we have some of the worst GHG profiles on the planet and may as well be called the Dirty Five. In this respect South Africa is not alone.