Government Outlines Vision, Strategic Direction and Framework for Climate Policy

28 July 2008


The South African Government launched its long-term mitigation scenario (LTMS) process on climate change in 2006. Findings and policy recommendations based on the LTMS were presented to the Cabinet at its Lekgotla last week. This is the culmination of two and a half years of work that involved stakeholders from Government, business, civil society and labour.

During the Cabinet Lekgotla, Government discussed the policy implications of the LTMS in detail. In response, Government has outlined an ambitious vision and adopted a pro-active and scientifically and economically robust policy framework that will ensure we meet the challenges of climate change in decades to come. It has set the strategic direction for climate action in South Africa.

Government’s vision and the implementation of this policy framework will be the best insurance policy current and future generations will have against the potentially devastating impacts of climate change. By adopting this strategic direction South Africa takes a leading position in the developing world and demonstrates it is ready to shoulder its fair share of responsibility as part of an effective global response. The worst impacts of climate change can be avoided if the rest of the world takes up the challenge in a similarly serious way, with developed countries taking the lead.

The international negotiations on strengthening the climate regime after 2012 gained significant momentum at the talks in Bali in December 2007. This process will conclude in Copenhagen at the end of 2009. South Africa’s LTMS process also establishes parameters for our post-2012 negotiating positions.

Science tells us the climate challenge is urgent and Government has therefore formulated a comprehensive domestic response based on the best available science, scenario building tools, rigorous analysis of energy and non-energy emissions, the consideration of a wide range of mitigation options and potentials, adaption planning and economic models. This is indeed cutting edge work.

Science also tells us that an increase in global average temperature above 2ºC poses a danger to all of us, but in particular the poor. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change we need to limit the temperature increase to 2ºC above pre-industrial levels. We are already approximately 0.7ºC above pre-industrial levels.

The world faces a global climate emergency. It is now clear that only action by both developed and developing countries can prevent the climate crisis from deepening. While developed countries bear most of the responsibility for causing the problem to date, developing countries – including South Africa – must face up to our responsibility for the future. Whilst we have different historical responsibilities for emissions, we share a common responsibility for the future.

The technical work done in the LTMS makes it clear that without constraints our emissions might quadruple by 2050. This is, in the most literal sense, not sustainable: If we continue with business-as-usual, we will go out of business. The alternative is a very challenging scenario – to make it our goal to achieve what is required by science of a developing country. According to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, avoiding dangerous climate change requires developed countries to reduce their emissions compared to 1990 levels by 80% to 95% by 2050, and by 25% to 40% by 2020. In developing countries, substantial deviations below business-as-usual baselines are required.

The implementation of a combination of the three LTMS strategic options - in other words those that can be achieved with known technologies and at a relatively affordable cost - can deliver a substantial deviation from business-as-usual emission trajectories in South Africa. By committing to and implementing this vision and policy framework, Government will make a meaningful contribution to the international effort. It is more ambitious and detailed than what many countries in the current negotiation process have put on the table.

Government’s vision

Government has outlined its vision for climate policy in the following terms:
 1. In designing our policy for the transition to a climate resilient and low-carbon economy and society, we will balance our mitigation and adaptation response.
2. Our climate response policy, built on six pillars, will be informed by what is required by science, namely to limit global temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The six policy direction themes are:

  • Theme 1: Greenhouse gas emission reductions and limits;
  • Theme 2: Build on, strengthen and/or scale up current initiatives;
  • Theme 3: Implementing the “Business Unusual” Call for Action;
  • Theme 4: Preparing for the future;
  • Theme 5: Vulnerability and Adaptation; and
  • Theme 6: Alignment, Coordination and Cooperation.

 3. We will continue to pro-actively build the knowledge base and our capacity to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change, most importantly by enhancing early warning and disaster reduction systems and in the roll-out of basic services, water resource management, infrastructure planning, agriculture, biodiversity and in the health sector.
 4. GHG emissions must peak, plateau and decline. This means it must stop growing at the latest by 2020-2025, stabilise for up to ten years and then decline in absolute terms.
 5. Over the long term we will redefine our competitive advantage and structurally transform the economy by shifting from an energy-intensive to a climate-friendly path as part of a pro-growth, pro-development and pro-jobs strategy.
 6.  Implementing policy under six themes will lay the basis for measurable, reportable and verifiable domestic emission reduction and limitation outcomes.
7. Overall, this would constitute a fair and meaningful contribution to global efforts. We would demonstrate leadership in the multi-lateral system by committing to a substantial deviation from baseline, enabled by international funding and technology.

Mitigation strategy 

With reference specifically to our mitigation strategy, Cabinet adopted the following approach:
 1. The Start Now strategic option as outlined in the LTMS will be further implemented. This is based, amongst others, on accelerated energy efficiency and conservation across all sectors, including industry, commerce, transport and residential, inter alia through more stringent building standards.
2. We will invest in the Reach for the Goal strategic option by setting ambitious research and development targets focussing on carbon-friendly technologies, identifying new resources and affecting behavioral change.
3. Furthermore, regulatory mechanisms as set out in the Scale Up strategic option will be combined with economic instruments such as taxes and incentives under the Use the Market strategic option, with a view to:

  • Setting ambitious and mandatory (as distinct from voluntary) targets for energy efficiency and in other sub-national sectors. In the next few months each sector will be required to do work to enable it to decide on actions and targets in relation to this overall framework.
  • Based on the electricity-crisis response, government’s energy efficiency policies and strategies will be continuously reviewed and amended to reflect more ambitious national targets aligned with the LTMS.
  • Increasing the price on carbon through an escalating CO2 tax, or an alternative market mechanism.
  • Diversifying the energy mix away from coal whilst shifting to cleaner coal, by for example introducing more stringent thermal efficiency and emissions standards for coal fired power stations.
  • Setting similar targets for electricity generated from both renewable and nuclear energy sources by the end of the next two decades.
  • Laying the basis for a net zero-carbon electricity sector in the long term.
  • Incentivising renewable energy through feed-in tariffs.
  • Exploring and developing carbon capture and storage (CCS) for coal fired power stations and all coal-to-liquid (CTL) plants, and not approving new coal fired power stations without carbon capture readiness.
  • Introducing industrial policy that favours sectors using less energy per unit of economic output and building domestic industries in these emerging sectors.
  • Setting ambitious and where appropriate mandatory national targets for the reduction of transport emissions, including through stringent and escalating fuel efficiency standards, facilitating passenger modal shifts towards public transport and the aggressive promotion of hybrids and electric vehicles.

Process going forward: 2009 to 2012

Cabinet has mandated a clear path for the future. Milestones will include a national summit in February next year, the conclusion of international negotiations at the end of 2009 and a final domestic policy to be adopted by the end of 2010 after international negotiations have been completed.

The process will culminate in the introduction of a legislative, regulatory and fiscal package to give effect to the strategic direction and policy from now up to 2012.

Enquiries to:
Ronel Bester Mobile: 083-242-7763 E-mail: