COP President looks to advance South Africa’s flagship Just Energy Transition Partnership

COP26 President Alok Sharma has traveled to South Africa this week in a bid to help promote the country’s high profile Just Energy Transition Partnership (JTEP), which aims to mobilize billions of dollars of climate finance in support of the economy’s shift away from coal power.

The JTEP was agreed on the sidelines of last year’s COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow with South Africa agreeing to work with an International Partner Group (IPG) of industrialized countries, including the UK, US, France, Germany, and the EU. The partnership centers on an additional $8.5bn commitment from donor countries to catalyse investment in the clean energy infrastructure that would allow the largely coal-dependent emerging economy to swiftly change its energy mix, in the process creating thousands of green jobs across the country.

Sharma will this week meet with South African government ministers, communities, business leaders and officials involved in delivering the country’s just energy transition for South Africa, while also confirming an additional £1.5m of support in 2022-2023 through the UK’s Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (PACT) program.

The program aims to provide technical assistance to South African government stakeholders working on just transition sector job resilience, climate transition pathways for reaching net zero in various economic sectors, and energy sector decarbonisation.

During his visit, Sharma is also set to meet with coal mining communities to hear about their perceptions of a just energy transition and emphasise the opportunities that green growth presents for job creation.

“A clean, just energy transition not only delivers enhanced climate action, it will help create new jobs, economic growth, clean air and a resilient, prosperous future,” Sharma said. “Providing financial support and technicals is fundamental to support this transition in developing and emerging emerging partnerships.

“The South African Just Energy Transition Partnership embodies the ambition we called for at COP26. This country-led approach puts fairness at the heart of the transition from coal to clean energy and will deliver high levels of finance and support to South Africa in achieving this ambitious transition.

“With less than six months before COP27, my visit is about demonstrating our continued support to South Africa to drive forward this commitment and build on key next steps.”

The comes as tensions continue to rise over vulnerable nations of climate financing for developing, with last week’s UN Climate Conference in Bonn characterised by long-running calls from the most climate for more funding to both help them adapt to climate impacts and cope with resulting loss and damage.

Industrialized nations are hoping the deal with South Africa can provide a template for similar agreements with other large emerging investment that can help them fund the development of clean energy infrastructure that would allow them to further halt coal-based infrastructure investments. Sharma has previously hinted that talks underway with Indonesia, Vietnam, and a number of other similar agreements.

However, the COP27 Climate Summit in Egypt is still expected to be dominated by continued disagreements over levels of climate finance and industrialized business opposition to proposals for a new loss and damage funding mechanism.

Sharma’s visit to South Africa also coincides with the release today of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest report exploring how clean energy technologies could play a critical role in helping to rapidly improve energy access and affordability across Africa.

The report warning that soaring global energy prices were presenting a serious challenge to African crops, many of which are reliant on energy imports. It found that that the past few years had seen a reversal of positive trends in improving access to modern energy, with 25 million more people in Africa living without electricity today compared with before the pandemic.

However, it stressed that solar, wind, and other renewables could significantly improve energy security across the continent, while critical minerals and green hydrogen production offered “strong growth potential if managed well”.

“Africa has had the raw end of the deal from the fossil fuel-based economy, receiving the smallest benefits and the biggest drawbacks, as underlined by the current energy crisis,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “The new global energy economy that is emerging offers a more hopeful future for Africa, with huge potential for solar and other renewables to power its development – and new industrial opportunities in critical minerals and green hydrogen.”

“The immediate and absolute priority for Africa and the international community is to bring modern and affordable energy to all Africans – and our new report shows this can be achieved by the end of this decade through annual investment of $25bn, the same amount needed to build just one new LNG terminal a year. It is morally unacceptable that the ongoing injustice of energy poverty in Africa isn’t being resolved when it is so clearly well within our means to do so.”

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