South Africa must adopt proven climate change strategies

OPINION

Most people who have lived their lives surrounded by hunger and poverty, in decaying cities and vanished villages, in mining towns and on the outskirts of industrial towns, find their daily struggles to survive too immediate and too pressing to caring about climate change and the environment, especially with climate champions who always look like they’ve never really been pressed for life. This coal fire station and smoke churning factory is usually what stands between the people and absolute poverty.

The politicians who represent these constituencies, even when informed enough to know the dangers of environmental degradation and climate change, are still aware that food, shelter, schools and jobs are a priority in these working-class communities and any suggestion to cut production limit carbon emissions or retrain workers for what look like dream jobs for the future always feels like a betrayal of prevailing reality. A politician can do a lot to mitigate climate change, but first he must win the votes. Defending your constituency’s most pressing needs will earn you votes.

Since the first industrial revolution, world economies have been built on coal and oil. Private companies and governments have invested huge sums of money and resources to build infrastructure that will make the mining, extraction and transportation of coal and oil seamless and these investments have been steadily growing throughout the world. over the centuries. The amount of resources needed to abandon this historical and resource-rich cause to a morally just cause that does not have the same amount of investment or time is next to impossible.

For most members of society, climate change is simply not at the top of their minds. Life is too immediate and too real to be afraid of a catastrophe that too many may or may not happen in the future. In fact, around the world, many people still believe that climate change is a hoax concocted by nature-loving fanatics. For these people, climate change is a concern of white kids and their “meaning-seeking” parents who spend their whole lives surfing and safari and know nothing about getting and keeping a real job.

There has therefore always been a competition between economic growth and employment and all its energy needs on the one hand and climate change with its consequences on the other. Wise leaders try to avoid this contest as a false choice. Instead of asking for the closure of coal-fired power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they choose to ask for the same only for energy efficiency and for countries that have no coal or oil to also minimize their dependence on other countries for energy. These countries may therefore seek clean coal technologies or nuclear energy for greater efficiency rather than being the absolute champions of wind and solar energy.

Environmentalists, who never seem to understand that governing is about managing competing goals and that politics itself is a contest of ideas, are still possessed by moral superiority, demanding an immediate end to the world-crushing machine, an immediate end to coal and oil drilling, because Armageddon is coming tomorrow. As lone voices considered irrational at the margins, environmentalists never have the numbers to back a politician who at least believes in climate change. It’s hard to do anything to curb climate change if you don’t have the numbers for political power.

THE REALITY OF CLIMATE CHANGE

It is, however, when the harsh reality of climate change hits, floods, drought, wildfires, disease, rendering temporary homes knee-deep in water and factories closed, that even reality hunger and poverty seem to take a back seat. You may not have that coal-fired power plant or factory after all.

This is when people realize that this is a necessity if South Africa is to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to levels consistent with its international commitment to cap our carbon emissions and protect the environment. ‘environment. Unfortunately, renewables (solar and wind) are still expensive and unreliable without the sun, wind, and battery storage to store excess energy.

It is also important that South Africa adopts strategies that have proven successful in other countries, such as “cap and trade”. The government sets limits on the amount of greenhouse gases that companies can emit. Those who exceed the limit pay a price. And those who cannot sell their differences to those who do. This opens up a new market for trade but also encourages businesses to innovate in technology and energy efficiency.

Thus, the transition from coal to renewable energy must occur if we are to protect ourselves and our infrastructure from severe weather events. However, such a transition must be fair. We need to build more wind farms, more storage batteries, invest in electric cars, make buildings more energy efficient, offer incentives and tax breaks to those who switch to renewable energy, and also invest in research before to be trampled on by a fanaticism that wants to stop what works now for a future that is still under construction.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing carbon emissions. From businesses to households, smarter decisions can be made to use less polluting substances and reduce energy consumption.

Businesses, however, are profit driven. They exist to make money. They are not interested in being morally superior. Therefore, the transition from greenhouse gas emitting resources to renewable energy must make meaningful business sense and governments can also offer some subsidies.

There’s a reason why despite these encouraging signs everywhere else, only about 4% of businesses get their energy from renewables.

OUR REALITY

According to South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan, more than 90% of South Africa’s energy comes from coal. The plan is that by 2030, 15% of our electricity should come from wind, 11% from solar, 10% from hydro and 16% from gas, leaving 46% for coal. The goal is to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The reality, however, is that huge coal-fired power stations such as Medupi and Kusile are still under construction and will add another 1,000 MW to the grid by 2030. It is simply impossible for South Africa to meet its 2030 targets and 2050.

It is also an inescapable reality that South Africa’s coal industry employs over 90,000 workers who will not be immediately employable at the pace of transition demanded by the green extremists.

The transition must therefore be well planned and fair. South Africa must not allow itself to be a lamb that has been slain to world leaders who are unable even to convince their own parliament to approve even the modest of greenhouse gas emissions targets. Our transition must correspond to our reality.

CLIMATE CHANGE IS FINALLY AN INTERNATIONAL RESPONSIBILITY

What the environmentalists now harassing our ministers do not fully appreciate is that South Africa could take whatever action is necessary to limit greenhouse gas emissions and even achieve net zero emissions. However, this will not protect South Africa from the devastating consequences of climate change if other countries still emit greenhouse gases. Climate change does not know where South Africa’s borders begin and end. Climate change must therefore always be fought at the international level with greater pressure on large emitters. What a fanatic shift from coal to renewables by South Africa will do, while others are lackluster, is simply put South Africa at a competitive disadvantage.

Not all of the development laggards, China and India, have been particularly enthusiastic about reducing their dependence on cheap energy sources such as coal, while the early developed countries had no such burdens. From the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio De Janeiro, in the Kyoto Protocol in Japan, to Copenhagen and now in Paris, there has been some measured will on the part of America and Europe to set global standards to reduce emission levels, but the BRICS countries have refused the hypocrisy of the West whose development has been guaranteed by the drilling of coal and oil to now have a moral superiority over the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, even in America there is a divide. Presidents like Bush who come from oil-rich states and those like Trump who are funded by big business never want to hear anything that would stifle business and make demands that would temporarily affect their profits in the name of climate change. Only Clinton and Obama have made real commitments to the international climate change agenda even as they tussle with their own congresses over ratification.

However, all world leaders have always known that climate change is an international battle and until all countries equally commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, no one is immune. severe flooding, drought, destruction of lowlands and other forms of destruction.

WAY FORWARD

Today and for the foreseeable future, coal remains the cheapest form of energy generation. Carbon-free technology remains very expensive and with energy being a key entry cost in many industries, South Africa needs to tread carefully in its transition.

We employ 90,000 people in the coal industry who cannot be uprooted and retrained now for jobs that do not yet exist.

A measured approach that starts with alternatives to reduce the greenhouse mission, cap and trade, and carbon tax should be used much further than a drastic and irrational reduction in coal and oil production harms our economy and puts us at a competitive disadvantage while other countries actually start up new coal, oil and gas plants.

More importantly, the fight against climate change must above all be an international fight since climate change has no borders. No country should sacrifice all its immediate energy production towards renewable energies to suffer the same fate as the polluting countries because climate change does not distinguish them from the big polluters.

The time for a responsible, fair and just transition has arrived.

Comments are closed.