COP23: Growth in SA energy sector, protests over US fossil fuels panel

2017-11-14 18:00
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Cape Town - South Africa highlights its hopes for the outcome of COP23 and growth in its sustainable energy sector, while participants protested at the US's 'clean fossil fuel' panel.

Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Thomson welcomed delegates to the SA Pavillion on Monday at COP23 taking place in Bonn, Germany. 

SEE: CoP23: Climatic extremes SA's biggest climate change concern

She hopes that COP23 will conclude with a draft in place for COP24 next year, where developed countries can make a further commitment to reducing their emission before 2020 and which will also allow developing countries "to access the much-needed finance to assist with adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change – in other words, the implementation of our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)."

South Africa's Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction system framework has been implemented ahead of 2020, and Phase Two will be finalised so that it may be implemented post-2020.

"The National Treasury is working on the finalisation of the Carbon Tax Legislation and the carbon offset regulations, which will also contribute to South Africa’s Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction outcome," said Thomson.

She also highlighted the successes of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), which have been integral to reducing SA's emissions and grow the country's renewable resources like wind and solar energy.

In the past five years, the Industrial Energy Efficiency Project (IEE Project) has assisted the industry to achieve energy savings worth over R1,54 billion. Phase 1 of the SA IEE Project has contributed to a reduction of carbon emissions. These reductions were achieved across industrial sectors.  This programme has also trained 2 600 more energy efficiency practitioners."

Minister Edna Molewa also arrived in Bonn on Tuesday, and will take lead of the South African delegation and hopes to get clarity on the NDCs.

“South Africa is hopeful that the Bonn Climate Change Conference will not only take stock of what is required to implement the Paris Agreement,  but that it will provide assurances that the political balance of the Paris Agreement is upheld.  We are hopeful that all issues of importance to developing countries, such as adaptation and means of implementation, will be addressed in the rule-book to be adopted before 2020,” says Molewa.  

the 25th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change was also concluded at COP23, which includes representatives from South Africa, Brazil, China and India. 

They expressed concern over attempts by some developed countries to restrict access to developing countries' funding through new eligibility criteria, especially funding under the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and the Green Climate Fund. They believe this does not coincide with the spirit of COP23 or the Paris Agreement, and are viewed as attempts to renegotiate the Paris Agreement and undermine developing countries climate change mitigation efforts.

ALSO SEE: SA participates in CoP23 international climate change talks in Germany

Protest at US panel

Since the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement, the Trump administration has not been popular amongst environmental organisations and experts. One of the few panels hosted by the US at COP23 was marred with controversy. 

According to The Guardian, the panel was originally supposed to advocate clean energy, but instead was renamed to 'The Role of Cleaner and More Efficient Fossil Fuels and Nuclear Power in Climate Mitigation'.

Promoting coal at a climate change event did not sit well with most attendees, and led to protests and a coordinated walk-out during the panel on Monday.

SEE: #ParisAgreement: Syria signs on, leaving only US out of climate change battle

Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and philanthropist, released a statement likening the promotion of coal at a climate summit to "promoting tobacco at a cancer summit." 

"It's also a denial of what's happening in the US - half of all American coal plants have been retired over the past six years, thanks to market and community forces and leadership by cities and states. That trend will continue no matter what happens in Washington, and we are now working to help the rest of the world move beyond coal too. If the administration won't lead it should at least get out of the way."

SEE: Weather Service: SA warming faster than the global average trend

Climate resilience key theme

The GEF also announced its support for the Climate Resilience and Adaptation Finance and Technology Transfer Facility (CRAFT), the first of its kind. Funding will go towards resilience-related companies and for the first time, private investors will be able to get a return on their investment.

GEF has committed $1 million so far, and hopes this fund will start a trend in private sectors. “I hope the new equity fund, the first of its kind for the GEF, can serve as an example of how to get more private sector capital into the resilience space,” says GEF CEO Naoko Ishii.

Climate resilience has become a major theme at COP23, especially after the devastating hurricane season this year that's destroyed many islands in the Caribbean. Besides GEF, Norway and Unilever has also committed $400 million to stimulate resilient social development at the conference.

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