Greenpeace calls out SA as world’s pollution hotspot

Greenpeace called out South Africa as a climate laggard, saying the world’s largest air-pollution hotspot is in the province of Mpumalanga.

The country’s poor performance, based on three months of satellite data, is unsurprising given that it still generates about 90% of its electricity from coal. Mpumalanga itself has rich reserves of the fuel and has more coal-fired power plants than any other province.

“South Africa has the most polluting cluster of coal-fired power stations in the world, which is both disturbing and very scary,” Melita Steele, senior climate and energy campaign manager for Greenpeace Africa, said in a statement.

The government’s Department of Energy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The data relate to levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air, and show that Johannesburg and Pretoria are also badly affected since the pollution blows across from Mpumalanga. The analysis offers a damning indictment of the country’s energy industry — led by state-owned utility Eskom — even after the government announced plans to boost clean generation.

Read: Why South Africa can’t make a massive shift to renewables- yet

Coal will decline to less than half of the nation’s total installed generation capacity by 2030, but still contribute more than 65% of energy production, according to the government’s blueprint.

Other nitrogen-dioxide hotspots identified by Greenpeace include coal-fired power complexes in Germany and India, and nine coal-power and industrial clusters in China.