SA needs concessional climate finance, Pershing says

South Africa will need a mix of grants and concessional loans to help effect a transition from coal to cleaner energy, according to Jonathan Pershing, the US’s deputy special envoy for climate change.

While South Africa, as a middle-income nation, is not usually eligible for concessional finance, Pershing said at a press conference on Friday that there is a “need” in the country.

“We believe that it’s part of what the donors will be seeking to do,” he said.

Envoys from the US, UK, Germany, France and the European Union were in South Africa this week to discuss support for an energy transition program to curb the use of coal mainly used to power the national grid. Financial support of almost $5 billion was suggested in the talks, a person familiar with the negotiations told Bloomberg.

While South Africa needs financial support to ramp up clean energy production the world’s richest nations are also keen to demonstrate ahead of the COP26 climate meeting in a few weeks time that they are providing support to developing countries to help fight climate change.

“You can’t shut things down unless you’ve got a mechanism to move forward — the mechanism here is a combination of alternative technologies, of renewable supply, of a better transmission grid,” Pershing said.

His visit to the continent also includes trips to Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo and Senegal, as well as virtual meetings with Kenyan and African Union officials.

Discussions around the Congo region will include solutions around keeping forests intact while maintaining economic value for local communities.

There is potential for Africa to “become a beacon” for addressing climate change, he said.

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