South Africa’s Coal Belt Gets a Boost from Climate Pact

How the country plans to use the money it received from the Just Energy Transition Partnership to support its coal-dependent province, Mpumalanga.

by Motoni Olodun

South Africa has unveiled its plan to invest the $8.8 billion it received from some of the world’s richest countries to help it transition away from coal and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The plan, which was approved by the government this week, will allocate part of the money to Mpumalanga, the country’s coal-mining and power plant hub, to support its economic and social development.

The plan is part of the Just Energy Transition Partnership, which was announced at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021. The partnership aims to help South Africa, the world’s 14th-biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, to shift to cleaner energy sources and meet its climate targets. The partnership was initially struck between South Africa, the US, the UK, Germany, France and the European Union, with Denmark and the Netherlands joining this year.

According to the plan, the money will be spent on various projects, such as renewable energy plants and power transmission lines, green hydrogen, electric vehicles, skills development and municipal finance. The plan also includes a special category for Mpumalanga, which is currently heavily dependent on coal for its electricity and employment. The province accounts for almost all of South Africa’s electricity generation, which comes from coal-fired power plants that are old, inefficient and polluting.

The plan aims to cushion the impact of the energy transition on Mpumalanga and its people, who fear losing their jobs and livelihoods as coal facilities close down. The plan will support the creation of new industries and opportunities in the province, such as tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and mining of minerals other than coal. The plan will also help to restore the environment and health of the province, which suffers from air pollution, water scarcity and land degradation.

The plan has been welcomed by environmental groups, who say it is a positive step towards a low-carbon future for South Africa. However, the plan has also faced some criticism and scepticism from some politicians and union leaders, who argue that South Africa is being pressured by Western nations to bear the burden of cutting emissions, while they have historically contributed more to the problem. They also question the feasibility and transparency of the plan, and whether it will benefit the poor and marginalized communities.

The plan will be presented at the COP28 summit in Dubai, which starts on Nov. 30, where it will be reviewed and finalized. The plan is expected to serve as a model for other developing countries that are also seeking to transition to cleaner energy sources, such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Senegal. The plan is also seen as a sign of hope and solidarity in the global fight against climate change, which requires collective action and cooperation from all countries.

Source: Bloomberg

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