Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project – South Africa Country Report
Achieving development and mitigation objectives through decarbonization development pathways in South Africa
South Africa is a middle-income developing country with high unemployment and high levels of poverty, as well as an emissions-intensive economy. South Africa pursues greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation policies in the context of pressing domestic development imperatives. The South African intended nationally determined contribution (INDC) states that a national priority is to eliminate poverty and eradicate inequality. The INDC also takes into account an assessment of what a fair contribution to reducing global GHG emissions might be, and is committed to a peak, plateau, and decline GHG emissions trajectory with absolute emissions specified for 2025 and 2030. As in many developing countries, these policy goals require increasing affordable access to safe and convenient energy services for those living in energy poverty while simultaneously engineering major transformations in the energy system. Lower poverty and inequality are goals that cannot be subordinated to lower GHG emissions.
This work utilizes an economy-wide computable general equilibrium model (e-SAGE) linked to an energy-system optimization model (TIMES) to explore improving development metrics within a 14 Gt CO2-eq cumulative energy sector carbon constraint through to 2050 for South Africa. The modelled scenario focuses on employment and poverty reduction under a carbon constraint, a novel combination with results that can provide information for a holistic development and climate policy framework. From 2010 to 2050 in the model, GDP increases more than 200%, and final energy consumption increases by 92%. The unemployment rate decreases from 25% to 12%, and the percentage of people living below the poverty line decreases from 49% to 18%. The electricity sector decarbonizes by replacing retiring coal-fired power plants with solar CSP, PV and wind generation. Industry and tertiary sector growth remains strong throughout the time period, with reduced energy intensity via fuel-switching and efficiency improvements. Total energy GHG emissions were reduced by 39% and per capita emissions decreased by 62%. Development metrics are improved by absorbing unskilled labour into the economy and improving income distribution and access to modern energy services. Decarbonization is achieved through a lower carbon intensity of energy production and use, and reduced energy intensity in the economy.
Funded by German Ministry for Environment – Part of the Global Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project with Henri Waisman at IDDRI and SDSN– SA Country Team Collaborators at ERC UCT: Hilton Trollip, Tara Caetano, Alison Hughes, Bruno Merven, and Harald Winkler