The work of FES South Africa with project partners under the climate and energy thematic area will be daunting in 2020, as this is a big year for the multilateral system on climate change, as well as a period of massive upheaval for our national electricity system. It is the year in which our President has committed to “enhance” our pledge on climate action under the Paris Agreement – known as our Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – specifically for the period to 2030. It is also the year in which decisions have to be made on how to rescue Eskom, our state-owned monopoly power utility, from a deepening debt spiral exacerbated by ongoing decline of plant performance.
On these themes our partners are civil society organisations promoting energy democracy and a just transition to a low-carbon economy and climate-resilient society, through popular education and mobilization, as well as directly engaging government through formal policy processes, input to Parliament and ad hoc lobbying. Working with two new partners includes supporting revitalization of the South African Climate Action Network (SACAN), as well as the development of a Climate Justice Coalition, being led by 350Africa.org working with the SA Federation of Trades Unions (SAFTU), formed after a split away from COSATU – the labour federation that remains in an alliance with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) and the SA communist Party.
Government work to elaborate and implement the National Climate Change Response Policy adopted in 2011 has come to a virtual standstill over recent years, with many processes stalled for lack of a clear mandate or guidance from the Executive, while the ‘lead agent’ is the relatively junior Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF). The policy was supposed to be reviewed after 5 years, as it is based on the science of well over a decade ago. Instead we have a mitigation pledge that has been internationally judged as highly unsatisfactory, as it cannot be reconciled with the global goal of keeping planetary heating well below 2°C, much less with attempts to limit average warming to 1.5 °C. Click here to continue reading.
Plans for 2020 are being adapted in light of Covid-19, inter alia informed by the deferral of multilateral negotiations (COPs) on climate change and biodiversity to next year. The immediate focus for all partners will be to align work with addressing the impacts of restrictions imposed in response the pandemic, while also seeking to avoid crisis response becoming an avenue to further entrench dependence on fossil fuels. The letter to Ministers, which is linked below, was sent to their offices on 12 February. The urgency to review our national climate change response objectives remains, as this should precede the design of the economic stimulus that will to follow the suspension of much economic activity to address the health emergency.