Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
3 minute read
17 Nov 2021
3:56 pm

Why should Africa pay for developed nations’ emissions? Creecy asks

Nica Richards

Africa will honour its climate change mitigation commitments, and aim for a just transition - but climate justice must be prioritised more.

It has to be noted who is historically responsible for carbon emissions, and ask critically what it would take to achieve just transitions in poorer regions. Picture for illustration: iStock

It will cost an estimated R4 trillion over the next 15 years for the African continent to pull off a just energy transition. 

Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creey said, in a debriefing session following international climate change talks, that although South Africa had committed to doing its “fair share” in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, this needed to be done in a manner and at a pace that suited the country’s interests and unique challenges. 

“We can’t be signing up to a situation where we are not ensuring we have adequate financial support for transitions.” 

ALSO READ: COP26 billions a ‘colonial takeover engineered by the West’ – EFF’s Shivambu

COP26 billions – is it enough? 

During COP26, South Africa received a much-needed boost in the form of an $8.5 billion (R131 billion) pledge from France, Germany, the UK, the US and the European Union.

Creepy said although this was a “good first step” towards enlisting renewables to the national grid, and ditching coal, if taken in context of the work required to make this work for a developing nation, this was a “small first step”. 

“It is very important that developing countries should maintain the fundamental principle, in the Paris Agreement, but with differentiated responsibility.”

She then said although there was a gleaming opportunity for green energy transition for Africa, it also had to be noted who was historically responsible for carbon emissions, and ask critically what it would take to achieve just transitions in poorer regions. 

Africa is also already heavily indebted. So although billions may be secured through the COP26 sideline agreement, it was integral that financing for energy transitions needed to be secured as ground and concessional financing, so as not to further contribute to debt. 

ALSO READ: SA can’t have a just energy transition without ‘support from wealthier nations’

‘Cimate justice’ 

South Africa is the continent’s biggest emitter, but overall, Africa only accounts for 2% to 3% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. 

The current climate crisis is not a new one, but has been coming for two centuries – which other, developed countries are directly responsible for, due to industrialisation, Creecy explained. 

Historically, Africa is responsible for around 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases, compared to China, which is at 36%.

And yet, Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents when the realities of temperature increases and subsequent consequences, such as food and water shortages, begin to take their toll. 

Creecy said many impassioned pleas from within the continent said without proper support from developed countries that have historically benefited from carbon gas emissions, there can be no sense of climate justice for developing nations. 

ALSO READ: Renewable energy: Good for the planet and the pockets of South Africans

Of course, African countries have committed to trying to halve carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2030, to avoid the 1.5°C temperature increase. We had to, because for Africa, 1.5°C translates to a 3°C rise in temperatures. 

“We all need to do our bit, but who needs to do more?” 

In addition, Creecy said countries giving instructions on just transitions were not doing so themselves – referencing the amount of new oil and gas explorations currently taking place in the UK and US. 

“There must be support for climate justice. Who must pay for the consequences?”