Minister Edna Molewa’s speech during launch of SA 2050 Pathway Calculator as read by Deputy Director-General Judy Beaumont

Launch of the 2050 Pathways Calculator for South Africa and Report on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Shale Gas, as read by Climate Change and Air Quality Deputy Director-General, Ms Judy Beaumont

26 March 2014, Ghallager Convention Centre, Midrand


Climate Change and Air Quality Deputy Director-General, Ms Judy Beaumont

Program Director
British High Commissioner to South Africa, Mrs Judith Macgregor
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning

It gives me great pleasure to be here today, launching the 2050 Pathways Calculator for South Africa and sharing with you the report on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Shale Gas.

I would like to acknowledge and thank our funding partners- the United Kingdom’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the British High Commission for their support in the development of the 2050 Pathways Calculator for South Africa. I would also like to thank GIZ for their part in the shale gas research project.  

As you may recall, we published the National Climate Change Response White paper Policy in October 2011. The policy outlines key elements in the overall approach to South Africa’s transition to a lower carbon and climate resilient economy and society. The policy also specifically calls for the “design, development and roll-out of a climate change awareness campaign that makes all South Africans more aware of the challenge of climate change and the need for appropriate responses and choices at individual and community level”.

Responding effectively to climate change requires us all to change our behaviour and for this to happen, we need to understand the implications of our actions. The 2050 Pathways Calculator provides us with a chance to do exactly that. The tool can be used to engage technicians, policy makers and the general public on how the country’s emissions could change overtime.

Because it is so open and easy to use, the tool makes it possible for anyone to explore the combinations of effort to reduce emissions while matching energy supply and demand.As you are aware the energy sector is the largest contributor to the country’s GHG emissions, because of our dependence on coal for our primary energy needs. Hence the largest mitigation contributions will have to come from reduced emissions from energy generation and use.  The Calculator provides us with an opportunity to explore energy choices and to understand the associated greenhouse gas emissions.

The tool will empower South Africans to make informed choices that contribute to a transition to a lower carbon economy and society. It should be noted that the 2050 Pathways calculator does not ‘recommend’ any one scenario or pathway over the others. It however, provides the user a way to understand the realm of possible scenarios and their implications. For example, users of the 2050 calculator can boost energy supply by building additional wind turbines or solar panels, or coal or nuclear. Or they can reduce energy demand by insulating peoples’ homes and changing travel behaviour. The system will show the implications of that selected pathway, and it enables the user to visually track how energy flows through the system, what the greenhouse gas implications are, and even how much the new energy system will cost to build.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The second product I am sharing with you today is the research report on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Shale Gas. In line with Cabinet’s decision and in keeping with the science-policy dialogue that informed South Africa’s climate change response policy and which continues to inform the implementation of this policy, the Department of Environmental Affairs commissioned research on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Shale Gaswith a view to informing and enriching the debate around the possible shale gas – climate change mitigation nexus.

As new shale gas reserves are discovered and exploration activities increase, the interest in shale gas production is growing globally. With this growing interest concerns are being raised related to the shale gas’s environmental sustainability and relevance as a fuel source. One such concern relates to the GHG emissions intensity of shale gas and whether it plays a positive or negative role in curbing global GHG emissions. It is against this backdrop that the Department commissioned a study on Greenhouse Gas Emissions Associated with Shale Gas.

Although the study looks to understand the implications of potential shale gas extraction, production and use in the South African context it is important to note that the data analysed is not South Africa-specific given that shale gas extraction and production has not taken place in the country at the time of publishing. Rather, much of the data drawn on in the literature reviewed stems from the USA. Overall, more research is required, particularly on direct measurements of GHG emissions, in order to better understand the GHG emissions intensity of shale gas extraction, production and use in South Africa.

It is clear from the research that if shale gas replaces other fossil fuels, certain uses of shale gas could have a significantly positive impact on our greenhouse gas mitigation efforts. However, it must also be understood that it may be only some uses, not all uses, that have a positive impact. Furthermore, it must also be understood that if shale gas is used in addition to-, as opposed to replacement of-, other fossil fuels, then this simply means more greenhouse gas emissions, albeit possibly at a reduced emission growth rate.

Also, in addition to the uncertainties associated with this shale gas research, whether South Africa has an economically viable shale gas resource remains the greatest uncertainty. Thus, although we must be prepared for any eventuality in order to fully exploit the potentially positive climate change mitigation contribution of shale gas if an economically viable resource is discovered, we must not bank on this possibility.

Indeed, if there is one immediately implementable thing that can be taken from this research it is that while we responsibly explore our shale gas potential, we should vigorously continue with our ambitious rollout of our most climate-friendly energy programme that is based on a well-established resource base, namely, South Africa’s world leading Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP).    

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, government alone cannot manage the transition to a low carbon economy and society; the private sector and civil society play a fundamental role. I would therefore like to call upon everyone to explore the calculator. I also encourage you to develop your inspired developmental pathways using the tool. Let us share climate change information as this will further enhance the climate change knowledge in the country.

With regard to understanding GHG emissions associated with shale gas, although it is clear that more research is required, this research highlights the need for the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions in all of our development plans by clearly illustrating how certain fuels have both pros and cons depending on their application.

With this, I officially launch the 2050 Pathways for South Africa.

I thank you

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