Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe says while the move towards clean energy is important, addressing energy security and poverty are key towards a just energy transition.
He was responding during a Strategic Planning Session of the Presidential Climate Commission at the Industrial Corporation Centre in Johannesburg.
President Cyril Ramaphosa established the Commission in December 2020. He is also the Chairperson of the Commission with Valli Moosa as his Deputy. The Commission consists of government representatives and various sectors of society. They include scientists, communities, labour, cabinet Ministers, academics and other civil society groups. The Commission held its first meeting for this year on Friday 18 January 2022, to assess progress made in addressing issues of climate change, by reducing carbon emissions without affecting livelihoods.
Mantashe says SA can move towards low carbon emission, but in a just way.
“ One of the issues, the major breakthrough by Minister (Barbara) Creecy is that she wants everybody, including coal fundamentalists, to accept that we must move from high carbon emission to low carbon emission, and there is no argument on that, Minister Creecy. We all agree. There is no question about that. Now, the issue is about the journey that we must undertake, this transition. Now every time we talk about this General (Bantu) Holomisa, I get worried when we talk about it as if it’s a numbers issue. It’s not a numbers issue, it’s about people and it’s about communities. And if we develop a just transition to address the issues of people and the issues of communities, we will be on the right track,” says Mantashe.
Mantashe says the focus should not only be on moving towards low carbon emissions.
“ As we deal with moving to low carbon emissions, equally important, is to deal with energy poverty. That means we can’t just drive one dimension programme. Energy poverty is very important. Security of energy supply must be key to our programme. We need to scan the coal-producing regions. For example, when we focus on energy aspect of (a)Just Transition. Coal producing regions, we must actually scan them and develop a coherent development programme,” emphasised Mantashe.
CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION NOT A ROCKET SCIENCE
One of the Commissioners of the Presidential Climate Commission Brian Mantlana says climate change mitigation is not rocket science. Mantlana also represents the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on the commission. He says some of the climate change mitigation challenges are marred by global unfairness , political and economic arguments. One of the areas of discussion in the sub- commission Mantlana is serving on, – looks into the primary pathways to a net-zero economy by 2050. A “net-zero” is defined as the balance between the amount of the production of greenhouse gases against the amount which is removed from the atmosphere. Mantlana identifies four impediments to mitigating climate change
“ We all know what needs to be done to mitigate climate change. However effective climate change mitigation translates to very bitter hard decisions. As such, – climate change mitigation tends to bring forth both political and economic arguments. Secondly Minister Creecy touched on this in passing in her remarks this morning. When one deals with climate change mitigation there is a lot of unfairness. When tackling global mitigation, there is a lot of built-in unfairness. And this is not a peripheral issue and us as South Africa as we respond to climate change specifically in the mitigation context, – we need to bring that issue to respond to this unfairness issue Thirdly the Paris agreement recognises that the reduction of emissions in developing countries will take longer in developing countries, – as these developing countries have an overriding challenge to address poverty. That we all know, but it’s important as a background and context to what we are talking about when we talk about pathways to net zero by 2050,” he emphasised.
POLICY REFORMS AND AVOID SILOS
Mantlana says the net-zero concept has a major developmental opportunity for South Africa.
“ And then I want to remind you that in and off itself the concept of net- zero CO2 or net- zero GHG (Greenhouse Carbon Gases) is a pure climate concept. By itself it is a technical concept. However, – in my view I believe that the net-zero Co2 or net zero GHG concept is a major developmental opportunity of our time. I want to repeat that: I think that when we (are) talking about the pathways to net-zero pathways by 2050, I view it as a major development opportunity of our time,- at least one major development opportunity of our time. That requires major and rapid reform of policy, frameworks for social and technical skills and integrated systems of analysis for policy options and risks and taking away working in silos”
BIG GLOBAL COMPANIES MADE “HELL” LOT OF PROFITS: GORDHAN
Another Minister who serves on the Presidential Climate Commission is Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan who is chairing the sub-commission for climate finance for a just transition. The focus of which is to look into climate financing challenges and how such obstacles can be overcome.
Gordhan shared how some obstacles can be minimised.
“The second is to create opportunities for the private sector. They will judge on the basis opportunities for investment as many of you have talked about this morning and they would approach this on a risk and reward basis. So if we reduce risk and rewards seem to be reasonable, although If you watched some of the financial announcements over the last week big companies made ‘hell’ lot of profits around the world including in South Africa. So those numbers are excruciatingly huge in terms of 100% increase in profit, 50% increase in profit. I hope Mr (Edward) Kieswetter is doing his job there. But how we create that kind of environment for private capital to come in, – and be part of what the first speaker spoke about as triple Ps (Public- Private Partnerships) is going to be quite crucial as well,” says Gordhan.
GORHAN CALLS FOR NATIONWIDE AWARENESS TO PREVENT JULY 2021
The Public Enterprises Minister says nationwide awareness is necessary to prevent disruptions such as the 2021 July unrest. He says such awareness is critical to avoid plunging South Africa down in the eyes of investors – as climate change is also associated with the political economy. More than three hundred people died in the unrest which gripped KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last year.
Gordhan also told commissioners that self- introspection was necessary as South Africans tend to take too long to make up their minds, before taking decisions.
“ So in a sense, there is a political economy around climate change that I think more account needs to be taken care of. So, every disruption we have, like July last year, is a factor that will take us a couple of notches down in the eyes of the investor and there needs to be a lot more awareness in a lot more quarters in South Africa. That sort of behaviour doesn’t help, and that sort of conduct doesn’t help. And the extent to which we are able to bring that under control is going to be the extent to which we become an attractive centre. But also, we as South Africans have a tendency to prevaricate around things. We take too long to make up our minds and too indecisive about who should do what,-if one has to be self-critical,”says Gordhan.
The independence of the Presidential Climate Commission, who should fund it and how it should be funded also generated debate.