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06 February 2010

SA keeps greenhouse pledge

Johannesburg - South Africa is thus far keeping the pledge it made at the Copenhagen climate change conference in December, according to Moody's associate economist Mekael Teshome.

The government met a January 31 deadline for reaffirming its intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 34% by 2020 and 42% by 2025. If it can meet those targets, the government estimates the country's emissions will peak between 2020 and 2025, plateau for about a decade, and decline in absolute terms after that, says Teshome.

He says South Africa's goal is among the most ambitious of any country involved in the Copenhagen Accord, and making the necessary reductions will not be easy.

"South Africa is the world's 13th largest emitter of carbon dioxide; according to the World Wide Fund for Nature and Allianz SE's G-8 Climate Scorecards, the country's dependence on coal puts its emissions per capita only slightly below the average for industrialized countries and well above the developing country average.

"Yet approximately 27% of South Africans do not have access to electricity. Many of the current programmes to expand electricity access and alleviate shortages include coal-fired plants, and this will make the emissions target even harder to achieve," Teshome avers.

He adds that the extent to which South Africa achieves its target will depend on the level of financial assistance, technology transfer and other support from the developed world.

"The Copenhagen Accord creates a fund for this purpose, which will need to raise $30bn between 2010 and 2012 and $100bn per year by 2020. Details are lacking, however. Although money should be available this year, a number of important questions are unanswered. Where will the money come from? Will the climate change fund divert money from existing development programs? How will the money be allocated and through which channels will it flow?

"These essential details aside," he continues, "raising funds in 2010 will be difficult. Developing economies, not rich nations, are powering the global recovery. Moreover, once developed economies are on a self-sustaining growth path, their policymakers will most likely be preoccupied with correcting fiscal imbalances brought on during the financial crisis and recession.

"With few countries willing to make binding commitments, the response may not limit global warming to 2?C over pre-industrial temperatures, the commonly used benchmark. Furthermore, some countries recommitted to emissions reductions in the lower range of their Copenhagen pledges, making it less likely that global action will be sufficiently aggressive.

"Nonetheless, the fact that 55 nations representing about 78% of global emissions presented their action plans to the U.N. by the Copenhagen deadline shows a widespread aspiration to combat global warming. So far, South Africa has been playing its part," adds Teshome.

- I-Net Bridge/