South Africa’s industrial giants are “endangering” the African powerhouse’s energy transition by continuing to defend fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.

South African environmental NGO InfluenceMap released a report on Thursday in which it warned that industry giants, which advocate for fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas, are threatening the country’s energy transition.

The report surveyed the climate policy of 16 companies based in South Africa, as well as 12 industry lobbies, revealing that in form, the majority of the companies surveyed support the transition to renewable energy, but at the same time support the role of coal.

This is the case for the state-owned ESKOM, which produces 90% of the country’s electricity from coal and contributes significantly to pollution. The chemical industry specialist Sasol, on the other hand, defends the use of natural gas.

While criticizing the government’s lax measures to penalize polluting companies, the NGO noted that the lobbying of major industrial powers such as Eskom and Sasol is jeopardizing the country’s climate objectives. These powers are often ranked among the top 15 greenhouse gas emitters in the world.

The same is true of the two economic heavyweights and biggest polluters in Africa’s leading industrial power: the state-owned company Eskom produces 90% of the country’s electricity mainly from coal, and the chemical industry specialist Sasol defends the use of natural gas.

However, this lobbying puts “in danger the climate objectives of the country”, regularly classified among the 15 biggest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet, the NGO criticizes which also pinpoints “not strict enough” measures of the government as regards climate.

Eskom and Sasol are trying to get through the carbon tax that penalizes large emitters. South Africa became the first country on the continent to introduce such a measure in 2019, although it remains almost entirely offset by tax breaks.

According to the World Bank, however, South Africa will need at least $500 billion to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Africa’s leading industrial power is facing a serious energy crisis, unable to produce enough electricity for the 60 million South Africans continually undergoing drastic load shedding.

Eskom, plagued by debts after years of mismanagement and corruption, particularly under the era of former president Jacob Zuma (2009-2018), is struggling with outdated power plants that regularly break down.

The oil and gas industry is facing increasing demands to clarify the implications of energy transitions for their operations and business models, and to explain the contributions that they can make to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The increasing social and environmental pressures on many oil and gas companies raise complex questions about the role of these fuels in a changing energy economy, and the position of these companies in the societies in which they operate.









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Piers Potter


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