Some much-needed light has emerged for Eskom and South Africa in the form of good news after it was announced at the COP26 World Summit that developed countries are committing to pledge around $8.5 billion, or R130.6 billion to South Africa to aid our transition to clean energy. Germany alone is committing roughly R12.5 billion.
What does this mean for South Africa?
According to President Cyril Ramaphosa who wrote a column in the Financial Times outlining his thoughts on renewable energy in SA, the pledge essentially exists as the only option for South Africa on the path to green energy. In his words, the matter is “not about charity, but fairness and mutual benefit.”
The pledge means that South Africa will have a substantial financial injection to help our shift away from coal plants. This also means that our greenhouse gases will be greatly reduced, our carbon footprint managed and our pollution controlled. Additionally, it could mean job creation as Business Insider notes, it could also mean job creation as the construction of clean technology infrastructure will require task teams. The Renewable Energy sector will also require labour to be managed and maintained.
However, as delicious as the financial offer from the first world countries might sound, there is no such thing as a free lunch, even when it comes to the overall goal of combatting global warming – which impacts the world at large. International financial debts are nothing new to South Africa and it can only be hoped that the government does not exercise financial carelessness.
What does this mean for the benefactor countries?
As Ramaphosa stated: the endeavour is mutually beneficial. What the US, Germany and other pledging European countries will gain is simple: South Africa is one of the massive blips on the windscreen that is clean energy for the world. Clean energy means less greenhouse gas emissions, which means a reduction in pollution and a leap toward fighting global warming and climate change – emphasis on the ‘global’ in warming.
In 2015, the Paris Agreement talks agreed on limiting global warming to 1.5 celsius. Additionally, the UN Decade gave the world until 2030 to focus on Sustainable Development goals before catastrophic climate change becomes our reality, according to the UN Environment Programme.
Taking these factors into consideration, it becomes a natural progression for world leaders to take heed for the greater good, and aid countries like SA who are in the eyes of the world a hindrance to these overarching environmental goals.
As publication Deutsche Welle notes, Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, expressed that the agreement would help move the world toward meeting its climate targets by “choking off international finance for coal.”
US president Joe Biden reportedly expressed that closing our coal plants “ahead of schedule and investing in cleaner alternatives” would boost global efforts to reach net-zero emissions.
For Ramaphosa, the financial aid is not only for the greater good but also the responsibility of the aforementioned countries, as historically “they’ve been the biggest polluters.”