A commitment by coal-addicted South Africa to transform to more sustainable energy generation will have a major impact on the Climate Summit starting in Glasgow at the end of next month.
The ripple effect of the world’s 13th largest carbon emitter making such an undertaking will likely drive countries like Indonesia,India, Russia Brazil and Malaysia to make more substantive pledges at the 26th conference of the parties on climate change.
With this mind, the climate envoys of Britain, France, the United States, Germany and the European Union are currently in South Africa.
They are seeing government , trades union, financial bodies, non governmental organisations and the energy generator ESCOM pressing for such a commitment.
Realising that it entails a monumental cost in jobs and to the fiscus the envoys are offering financial assistance.
No less than 90% of electricity generated by ESCOM’s is coal fired.
South Africa’s dependence on carbon-generated power has not diminished since it hosted the 17th COP in Durban a decade ago.
Indeed new plants like Madupe will ensure South Africa’s reliance on coal for decades to come.
But as generating sustainable energy becomes cheaper, coal-fired power become more expensive and increasingly difficult to finance..
The language in mining and energy sectors grown increasingly pro-transformation.
This is reflected in South Africa in recent pronouncements by SASOL – the oil from coal giant – and Ashanti.
The European Union is demanding tariffs that punish coal use.
The climate envoys are concentrating more on carrot than stick in their talks to a fellow G20 member committed to transformation.
Diplomatic sources say an agreement on helping finance this radical change in energy thinking will be a game changer.
Most importantly, it would come at a time when climate experts are saying the crisis is not decades or even years away but is with us right now.