Partnership with South Africa is a key priority for the EU as the country is the second-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa and the EU’s largest trading partner on the continent. The economic challenges that South Africa faces, such as a slow growth rate and a decline in manufacturing production, have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under South Africa’s 2021 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), the country pledged to reach peak greenhouse gas emissions in 2025. South Africa is the world’s 14th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, principally due to a heavy reliance on coal for power. In a bid to edge South Africa towards a coal-free energy future, at the United Nations climate change talks (COP26), the governments of South Africa, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with the EU, announced a new ambitious, long-term Just Energy Transition Partnership to support South Africa’s decarbonisation efforts.
The partnership aims to accelerate the decarbonisation of South Africa’s economy, with a focus on the electricity system, to help it achieve the ambitious goals set out in its updated NDC emissions goals. The partnership will mobilise an initial commitment of $8.5 billion for the first phase of financing and, ultimately, support a move away from coal in order to accelerate a transition to a low-emission, climate-resilient economy.
SPIPA’s engagement in South Africa followed three specific objectives: to facilitate exchanges on climate policy options and good practices between the EU and South Africa; to advance bilateral trade, investment and innovation in pursuit of the goals of the Paris Agreement and NDCs; and to contribute to improving public awareness of climate change and the issues that surround it.
In pursuit of the facilitation of exchanges on climate policy between the EU and South Africa, SPIPA-supported actions served as a link between fostering a bilateral climate dialogue and ensuring that the concerns and challenges faced by stakeholders and communities were at the centre of all engagements.
To this end, and with strong support from both the EU Delegation to South Africa as well as the German Embassy, SPIPA has consistently applied a Team Europe approach to its actions in South Africa since mid-2020. The Programme has facilitated events such as #TeamEurope Climate Diplomacy Week in 2020, the EU Climate 360 conference in 2021, and the EU Investment for Transformation Skills Partnership webinar. Contributions that arose from SPIPA actions were featured regularly in the meetings of the EU-South Africa Forum on Environment, Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Water.
Leading up to COP26, SPIPA supported dialogues between South Africa and the EU on pathways towards long-term climate-neutral growth and competitiveness. These enjoyed a high level of involvement from business stakeholders and policymakers, and comprised robust technical analysis and the modelling of sector and scenario development pathways. They also emphasised the importance of ensuring a Just Transition, especially during the EU-South Africa Parliament Dialogue. Early on, these dialogues were designed to strengthen the exchange with national and provincial legislators to address South Africa’s Just Transition challenges by facilitating access to science about mitigation and development pathways.
Under the banner of a Just Transition, SPIPA also supported the launch of actions aimed at increasing awareness of opportunities for socially inclusive and climate-resilient enterprises. To this end, SPIPA helped to promote dialogues on new, innovative business ideas put forward by established South African enterprises in renewable energy, energy efficiency, agriculture, water, sanitation, transportation, industrial technology and tourism within the coal-dependent communities. This support also enabled SPIPA’s South African partners to explore ways in which to create viable climate-friendly cross-border business partnerships in the context of a world that is recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the field of climate change adaptation, SPIPA supported the South African leg of the Adaptation Futures conference series in 2018 and facilitated other exchanges between experts in that year. Moreover, SPIPA supported the provincial-level development of a South African-EU knowledge-exchange platform on climate adaptation and the Presidential Climate Commission , an independent, statutory, multi-stakeholder body established by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Through SPIPA, the EU has continued to support the Presidential Climate Commission in its mission to facilitate a just and equitable transition towards a low-emission and climate-resilient economy.
Turning to the third of SPIPA’s objectives in South Africa, the partnership provided support to local initiatives in the country that are focused on engaging with young people, including a youth statement on a Just Transition and green recovery drawn up by the youth participants of the 2020 #TeamEurope Climate Diplomacy Week and Youth Dialogue.