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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 4th November 2021

South Africa's coal deal could set trend

Blue Lines

Rhetoric is the warmest commodity at the UN's COP26 climate summit in an icy Glasgow. The distant pledges for achieving 'net zero' economies – in 2050, in 2060 or 2070 – concern African countries less than the current realities of extreme weather, the droughts and floods that have devastated harvests and forced over 70 million people to flee from the homes. Madagascar, which has suffered the world's first famine triggered by global warming, is an omen.

Africa's concerns were set out in three UN climate reports which projected a devastating rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius this century. Part of the response could come from the promised US$100 billion a year fund for developing economies, although contributions are more than 20% below target. South Africa's Environment Minister Barbara Creecy forecasts the overall target will have to rise to $750bn a year after 2025 to meet the new climate imperatives.

South Africa announced a US$8.5bn deal with the United States, Britain and the European Union to accelerate its shift from coal power to renewable energy, which could become a template for others. But there is far less discussion about how oil and gas exporters in Africa, such as Nigeria, Algeria and Angola, restructure their economies as finance dries up for new production projects but their energy sectors remain critically dependent on fossil fuels.