South Africa
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the National Statement at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on 8 November 2022. (Photo: GCIS)

South Africa calls for less talk and more action on global climate pledges

On the sidelines of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the hastened implementation of international climate agreements.
On the sidelines of COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the hastened implementation of international climate agreements.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a press conference shortly after delivering South Africa’s national statement, called for the implementation of international climate agreements and pledges.

“South Africa came to COP27 to advance a number of key messages,” he said. “The first one being that we need secure maximum ambition in terms of climate action and that the world needs to go beyond just merely talking about taking action on climate action and act.”

“We also came here to call on our partners from developed economies to honour their previous commitments in order to provide support to developing economy countries like South Africa and a number of them in southern Africa and in other parts of the world.

“The third one was to build on progress made in Glasgow on the importance of just transitions and also to advance discussions on the special needs and circumstances of countries in Africa,” said the President.

Delivering South Africa’s country statement earlier, Ramaphosa said to the assembled heads of state and foreign dignitaries that “for the sake of our continent and the world, we need a dramatic increase in global mitigation ambition to keep the world on the 1.5-degree pathway”. 

Professor Francois Engelbrecht, a climatologist at the Wits Global Change Institute, and Dr Pedro Monteiro, then chief oceanographer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), have explained in an Our Burning Planet op-ed that 1.5°C and 2°C are the thresholds that define “dangerous climate change”.

“Like other vulnerable regions, Africa needs to build adaptive capacity, foster resilience and address loss and damage, as we all agreed at Paris COP21,” said Ramaphosa. 

“To achieve this, our continent will need a predictable, appropriate and at-scale funding stream and technological support,” he continued, adding that “this must support our right to development, international equity and transitions that are just and inclusive.

“This places a great responsibility on developed economies to honour their commitments to those countries with the greatest need and that confront the greatest environmental, social and economic effects of climate change.”

He said that “our emphasis must be on the health, well-being and food and water security of the most vulnerable. At a national level, South Africa is fully committed to achieving the most ambitious end of the mitigation range in our updated Nationally Determined Contribution.

“As a country, we are guided by a Just Transition Framework and an Investment Plan that outlines the enormous scale and nature of investments needed to achieve our decarbonisation goals over the next five years.

“We are already scaling up investment in renewable energy, and are on course to retire several of our ageing coal-fired power plants by the end of 2030. At COP26 in Glasgow last year, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union offered support in the form of a Just Energy Transition Partnership.” 

A day earlier, South Africa formally handed over its R1.5-trillion investment plan to the International Partners Group (IPG) at COP27.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the IPG welcomed the deal. 

‘Benchmark for other countries’

UK Prime Minister and chair of the International Partners Group Rishi Sunak said: “I congratulate President Ramaphosa for the great progress that has been made on the South Africa Just Energy Transition Partnership. In one year since COP, South Africa, along with the UK and our friends in the International Partners Group, have shown how serious we are about making the changes we need to halt climate change. South Africa’s JET Investment Plan paves the way for a sustainable and fair transition away from coal and towards cleaner forms of energy, building the foundations for a strong green economy.”

US President Joe Biden said: “The United States is proud to partner with the government of South Africa and the members of the International Partners Group to support South Africa’s just transition to a cleaner energy future. We welcome the comprehensive JET Investment Plan, and fully support South Africa’s economy-wide energy transformation. Our support for South Africa’s clean energy and infrastructure priorities, which include efforts to provide coal miners and affected communities the assistance that they need in this transition, will help South Africa’s clean energy economy thrive.” 

His french counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, said: “France is proud to work with South Africa on the implementation of this Just Energy Transition Partnership, which will help to strengthen the country’s energy security, green its electricity mix and set a benchmark for other countries around the world, while keeping at its core the just element of this transition in order to leave no one behind. I welcome the ambitious Just Energy Transition Investment Plan presented by South Africa and I am happy to confirm that France has just unlocked a concessional policy support of €300-million to South Africa, as a first step towards the fulfilment of our $1-billion commitment to support South Africa’s decarbonisation.” 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said: “Climate protection and economic prospects must go hand in hand. The adoption of the investment plan is a milestone on the path to a climate-neutral and – at the same time – socially just economy in South Africa. Germany is contributing $1-billion, including a substantial part through grants, to a support package from the international donor community worth $8.5-billion. This is an ambitious start. More needs to follow, particularly in collaboration with the private sector.” 

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: “For the EU, the climate transition needs to be just. This partnership, with new investments, is how we help ensure that nobody is left behind. Therefore I welcome the endorsement of this Investment Plan. It will now kick-start the Just Energy Transition Partnership with South Africa, a first-of-its-kind global initiative for accelerating a just energy transition in countries that commit to phase out coal. It is a flagship of EU-supported multilateral cooperation to limit global warming to 1.5°C.”

Ramaphosa continued that “it is our hope that this partnership will offer a ground-breaking approach to funding by developed countries for the ambitious but necessary mitigation and adaptation goals of developing countries.

“South Africa reiterates its support for the Egyptian presidency and its confidence in the successful outcomes of COP 27.”

This story was originally published on the Daily Maverick, with the support of Climate Tracker’s COP27 Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship.

Ethan Van Diemen
Ethan is a humane being on the apocalypse beat for the Daily Maverick. He’s also a Rhodes and University of the Witwatersrand alumnus and an Open Society Foundation for South Africa Investigative Journalism Fellow 2020. Ethan believes South Africa is already experiencing the impacts of climate change and faces multiple challenges in relation to climate change over the next decade.