The Energy Research Centre (ERC) of the University of Cape Town in cooperation with the African Climate & Development Initiative hosted a panel discussion on the Brown to Green Report 2017 on 14 July. Andrew Marquard, Senior Researcher of ERC and co-author of the Brown to Green Report, presented the key findings of the report comparing the efforts of G20 countries in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Inputs from panelists on a) the G20 and climate change (Harald Winkler, Director of ERC), b) South Africa’s coal legacy and current situation (Jesse Burton, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association), and c) prospects and challenges for renewable energy in South Africa (Brenda Martin, Researcher at ERC) followed.

Around 60 persons including local authority officials, business, journalists, academics and students attended the event.

Highlights from the report on South Africa’s climate performance

International commitment to reduce emissions: South Africa’s international commitment to reduce emissions is not ambitious enough to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. South Africa’s commitment is ranked “inadequate”. The commitments of many of our developing country partners in the G20 – China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico – are rated “adequate”.

Share and trend of coal in total primary energy supply: South Africa’s coal dependence is the HIGHEST in the G20, and is higher than coal-dependent China and India.

Share of renewable energy in the energy mix: South Africa’s share of renewables is amongst the lowest in the G20 (second lowest), but development of the renewables programme (REIPPPP) are promising.

Investment attractiveness: South Africa is rated internationally as an attractive destination for investments in renewable energy, but the standoff between Eskom and government on finalising the latest round of REIPPPP contracts is leading to a loss in confidence amongst international investors.

Climate policy: South Africa’s national and international climate policy performance is rated highly, but many challenges lie ahead with implementation.

Discussions at the event centered on challenges moving away from coal in South Africa, current disputes regarding closure of coal plants and new renewable energy projects, socio-economic challenges of the low-carbon transition and the political economy of coal, renewable energy, climate change and air pollution.