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South Africa’s carbon emission targets not nearly ambitious enough to combat deepening footprint

Screen Shot 2021-05-11 at 10.59.16 AM

Source: Robyn Hugo, Daily Maverick, 10 May 2021, photo credit: Cargo Compass

To hear President Ramaphosa’s 22 April address to the Virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate Change, you’d think South Africa was going “above and beyond” when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. Not so.

SA’s long-awaited draft updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) closed for written public comment on 30 April. The NDC is our country’s pledge to take action to meet the goals of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, which aims to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions soon enough to avoid catastrophic climate change.

The Paris Agreement requires that every country signatory prepare and submit increasingly stringent five-yearly NDCs, setting out its “highest possible ambition” to reduce GHG emissions, “reflecting its common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances”.

SA’s draft updated NDC correctly recognises that a “just transition is at the core of implementing climate action”, and that no one must be “left behind as we move from a high GHG emission, low-employment energy development pathway to a low emission, climate-resilient and job-rich pathway”.

But when it comes to reducing our climate-changing emissions – what is called “mitigation” — the NDC is not nearly ambitious enough to avoid global warming’s most dire impacts.
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