Jean-Jacques Cornish

Climate envoys seek an agreement with South Africa that could be a COP 26 game changer in Glasgow

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.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.