Above: Power plant with heavy emissions. Picture by Catazul

The South African Government has affirmed its dedication to achieving net-zero emissions by the year 2050. This commitment remains steadfast, even as the nation continues to rely on coal as a primary source of energy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2021 State of the Nation Address on Net-Zero Emissions and Renewable Energy

In his 2021 State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the critical topics of net-zero emissions and the promotion of renewable energy, notably solar and wind power.

Harnessing Wind and Solar Energy for Net-Zero Goals

“Eskom,” the national power utility, has projected a potential electricity supply deficit of 4,000 to 6,000 megawatts over the next five years due to the aging coal-fired power stations nearing the end of their operational life.

As a part of our strategy to address this impending shortfall, we are taking immediate action. In the upcoming weeks, we will be issuing a request for proposals for the generation of 2,600 megawatts from wind and solar energy, marking the initiation of Bid Window 5. Following this, another bid window is scheduled for August 2021.

Climate Change and Our Commitment to the Paris Agreement

President Ramaphosa emphasized the urgency of addressing climate change and upholding our obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, which necessitate significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Eskom, as the largest greenhouse gas emitter in the country, has committed in principle to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Additionally, Eskom aims to expand its renewable energy capacity. In pursuit of these objectives, Eskom is actively seeking partnerships with investors to repurpose and transition part of its coal-based power generation. This transition will be conducted in a manner that encourages investment, stimulates local economic activity, and promotes domestic manufacturing, all within the context of a just and equitable transition.

Factory smoke pollution. Picture by Sam Bark – Unsplash

Guidance through the Presidential Coordinating Commission on Climate Change

Our efforts to combat climate change will be directed by the Presidential Coordinating Commission on Climate Change, which recently convened for the first time this month. This commission is tasked with developing a comprehensive plan for a just transition towards a low-carbon economy and a society resilient to the challenges of climate change.

Structural Economic Reforms for Growth and Employment

President Ramaphosa underscored the importance of implementing structural economic reforms to foster higher rates of growth and employment. These reforms are aimed at reducing costs, eliminating barriers to entry, increasing competition, attracting new investments, and creating opportunities for emerging market players.

These crucial economic reforms are being actively pursued through Operation Vulindlela, a collaborative effort between the National Treasury and the President’s office. Operation Vulindlela is focusing on reforms within the electricity, water, telecommunications, and transport sectors, as well as enhancements to our visa and immigration regulations.

What Is Net-zero?

Net-zero, in the context of climate change and environmental sustainability, refers to a state in which the greenhouse gas emissions produced by human activities are balanced by the removal of an equivalent amount of these gases from the atmosphere, effectively resulting in no additional net emissions. This concept is paramount in addressing global warming and mitigating its adverse effects.

Achieving net-zero emissions requires a multifaceted approach. It involves reducing emissions by transitioning away from fossil fuels, enhancing energy efficiency, adopting sustainable agricultural practices, and promoting carbon capture and storage technologies. Simultaneously, it necessitates increasing carbon removal mechanisms, such as afforestation, reforestation, and advanced technologies like direct air capture. The goal is to strike an equilibrium where the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere is counteracted by their removal, either naturally or through human intervention.

Net-zero is considered essential to limit global warming to the targets set by international agreements like the Paris Agreement. It signifies a commitment to a sustainable future, where humanity’s impact on the climate is minimized, safeguarding the planet for current and future generations. Achieving net-zero emissions requires collaboration among governments, industries, and individuals, making it a critical objective in the fight against climate change.

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