SA’s R135bn climate pact may draw new partners

Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26 climate talks, said other nations and philanthropic organisations want to join the $8.5 billion (R135 billion) climate finance deal offered to South Africa by the UK, US, Germany, France and the European Union.

That could increase the amount of money South Africa will get to help the nation transition away from coal, he said at a press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday. The fuel accounts for more than 80% of the country’s power generation.

The Just Energy Transition Partnership was announced at the COP26 talks in Glasgow in November and the terms are being negotiated by South Africa and partner nations. The deal has been touted as a blueprint for future agreements with other coal-dependent developing nations.

“This JETP is about kick starting further support that will come,” said Sharma, who is also a UK cabinet minister. “We know, for instance, that there are other developed economies that have an interest in supporting South Africa.”

Read: SA needs R3.9trn to transition away from coal

“There is also interest from philanthropies and I think there is interest from the private sector as well,” he said.

South Africa, the world’s 13th-biggest source of greenhouse gases, will need to spend $250 billion over the next three decades to fund the closing down of coal-fired power plants and development of replacement green energy such as wind and solar, according to a study released last month.

In addition, money will need to be spent compensating coal-dependent communities whose livelihoods are threatened by the change, The Blended Finance Taskforce and the Centre for Sustainability Transitions at Stellenbosch University said.

“As part of a long-term transition it will require significantly more funding,” Sharma said, adding that he held talks with seven South African ministers on Tuesday. “Anything that this partnership can help to catalyse in terms of additional funding, I think, is very good news.”

Sharma said he wants concrete progress in the talks with South Africa by the COP27 climate meeting in Egypt later this year.

The plan is for South Africa to produce a draft investment plan in July and to have a final version signed off with the partner countries by early November, the South African government and Sharma said in a joint statement.

The COP26 president also said at the press conference that partnerships with other developing countries could be announced at the next climate talks.

“We are working with a number of other governments in terms of just energy transition partnerships for those particular nations,” he said. “I hope we may be in a position by COP27 to make political declarations on those.”

Sharma said he also met with mining companies and mineworker union leaders.

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