Climate Change, Development and Energy Problems in South Africa: Another World is Possible

A joint research report from Earthlife Africa and Oxfam International

Published: 26 February 2009

Much of South Africa is already arid or semi-arid and climate change is expected to increase temperatures and droughts and add to pressure on limited water supplies. Poor people will be hardest hit. The South African government has been commendably vocal in calling for rich countries to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Yet South Africa is also part of the problem as the largest emitter of GHGs on the continent.

South Africa’s dependency on coal-fired power stations results in very high per capita energy use, yet still 30% of citizens do not have access to electricity. Most emissions come from just two companies, Eskom and Sasol. The report argues that conventional fossil-fuel powered development is both unsustainable in terms of climate change, and is also failing the poor. Yet South Africa has enormous untapped potential for solar power, wind and other renewable energies.

Eskom and Sasol both claim to take climate change seriously and have strategies to diversify energy supply, but in practice they continue to scale-up production based on coal. The report argues that government must get serious about implementing its renewable energy targets and keep Eskom and Sasol to their word.

Earthlife Africa is expert in analyzing the energy sector and Oxfam International has contributed information about climate change impacts on poor communities. Together they recommend measures including:

  • A moratorium on building new coal-fired plants after 2013;
  • An immediate moratorium on new coal-to-liquid plants;
  • Staggered implementation of carbon taxation;
  • Rolling out 1 million solar water heaters by 2020;
  • Making energy efficiency mandatory in new housing schemes for poor citizens; and
  • Awareness raising about climate change and involving the public in calls for environmental justice, poverty eradication and corporate accountability.