President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that South Africa has signed a political declaration with the governments of France, Germany, the UK and the US, as well as the leadership of the European Union, to establish a partnership to mobilise an initial $8.5-billion, or R131-billion, over the next three to five years through a range of instruments, including grants and concessional finance, to support the implementation of South Africa’s revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) through a just transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.
The political declaration represents a first-of-its kind partnership to turn these commitments into reality and a model for similar forms of collaboration globally.
In preparation for COP26, South Africa submitted a revised NDC to reduce domestic carbon emissions to within a target range of between 420-million and 350-million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030.
This revised target is compatible with the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement and represents the country’s best effort to confront climate change, which will have a devastating impact on sub-Saharan Africa without large-scale mitigation and adaptation efforts, the Presidency says.
The highly concessional finance that will be mobilised through this partnership will accelerate investment in renewable energy and the development of new sectors such as electric vehicles and green hydrogen.
This will provide a significant boost to investment and growth while ensuring power utility Eskom can access resources to finance repurposing of coal-fired power stations scheduled for decommissioning over the next 15 years.
“Climate change is an existential challenge that confronts us all, and South Africa is committed to playing its part in reducing global emissions. The partnership that we have established today is a watershed moment not only for our own just transition, but for the world as a whole.
"It is proof that we can take ambitious climate action while increasing our energy security, creating jobs and harnessing new opportunities for investment, with support from developed economies,” Rampahosa says.
He adds that “bold and ambitious actions” are required from all countries to confront climate change and South Africa has consistently argued that developed economies must support a just transition in developing economies.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the announcement, saying the "game changing partnership will set a precedent for how countries can work together to accelerate the transition to clean, green energy and technology".
“Moving away from coal is essential if we are to meet our target of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. President Ramaphosa has shown real leadership on this issue, and the UK is committed to working with South Africa and our partners to support a just and fair transition to renewable energy,” he added.
US President Joe Biden added that the US, along with the partner countries, are announcing the partnership with South Africa to "help transform the economy to a clean energy economy more quickly. Right now South Africa is the largest emitter in Africa [owing] in large part to the heavy reliance on coal for power".
He said that, by closing South African coal plants ahead of schedule and investing in clean power alternatives for the people of South Africa and supporting an equitable and inclusive transition in South Africa’s coal sector, the political declaration will follow through on the pledge the G7 partners made in Cornwall to accelerate the transition away from coal in developing countries.
French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel also welcomed the announcement and partnership, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also committing her support.
UK High Commissioner in South Africa Antony Phillipson, meanwhile, said that "delivering on this ambition will affect mining communities and workers".
"The Partnership recognises the importance of supporting South Africa’s efforts to lead a just transition that supports affected workers and vulnerable communities, especially coal miners, women and youth, as the South African economy changes. It will work to identify financing options for innovative technical developments and investments, including electric vehicles and green hydrogen, to help the creation of quality, green jobs."
The declaration represents a powerful example of action through a global collaboration between an emerging economy and international partners to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. The partnership is also open to other countries wishing to contribute financial capacity, thereby exerting a further boost to South Africa’s clean energy transition.
The political declaration marks the beginning of a process, and its operational arrangements will be elaborated in detail over the coming months.