The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today proposed that Eskom be called to present to the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on steps being taken to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. The proposal was unanimously accepted by the chairperson and all members of the committee present.
During today’s meeting, the committee heard that although overall emissions have reduced over the past year, mainly due to the lack of activity during Covid-19 lockdowns, the chief emitter remains the energy sector accounting for around 48% of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions. As the largest player in this space, it is essential that Eskom provide a clear and concise roadmap in terms of the steps being taken to address their own greenhouse gas emissions.
The overall impact of loadshedding on the environment remains uncertain. The massive increase in the burning of diesel to cope with loadshedding has changed the amount of greenhouse gasses being released. Eskom has admitted that over R43 billion of diesel was burned from the period 2009 – 2019 to keep their power stations going and that at present they are burning around R10 million of diesel per hour. Eskom needs to provide answers as to how long they envisage this extemporary measure to continue and what the ongoing impact is on the environment. They will also need to be open and transparent in terms of their current overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Currently, South Africa is rated as “highly insufficient” by the Climate Action Tracker in regards of its own targets in terms of the Paris and Copenhagen agreements. As it stands, South Africa’s targets are judged to be at the least stringent end of the fair share of the global effort towards reducing climate change emissions.
Following on from questions today by the DA, officials revealed that they have taken into consideration the low rating of the current emissions targets and will be proposing that these be revised going forward to be more ambitious. The DA welcomes this move but would caution that targets are not increased beyond what the economy and industry are realistically able to deal with.
An important matter remains the outstanding Climate Change Bill which is due to be tabled this year. We would urge the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries to give this bill the urgency and priority it deserves. The tabling of this bill will be key in terms of the future of South Africa’s climate change response and the DA looks forward to engaging with and contributing to the bill when it is tabled.
We have also noted that the first meeting of the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission has taken place and will be following these meetings closely, which the Minister has today confirmed will be open to the public.
The DA remains committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has a plan to achieve this. Key to this will be the accelerated diversification of energy production, enabled by greater autonomy for independent power producers. If we do not take urgent steps to not only mitigate but to adapt to the changing climate we will see devastating consequences for future generations.