Climate change is hurting South Africa’s economy: Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that tackling climate change is a national priority for South Africa, even as it continues to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Writing in his weekly open letter to the public, Ramaphosa pointed to the prolonged drought in parts of the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape which caused water shortages, widespread crop failure and negatively affected both commercial and subsistence farming.

This in turn had a national impact, he said.

“It drove up food prices, particularly of basic staples such as maize meal, contributing to food insecurity in poor households. It affected the broader economy, as the yield of key agricultural exports declined.”

“Unless we act with urgency, we could find our developmental gains being reversed and our ability to overcome poverty, joblessness and inequality severely constrained.”

Ramamphosa said that government plans to introduce regulations to limit the damage of climate change through the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which outlines targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Each country submits these targets to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change every five years.

“Last month we published our updated NDC for public comment ahead of submission to the Glasgow Summit in November,” he said.

“Our new NDC proposes a significant reduction in emissions target ranges. By implementing our mitigation strategy, we aim to see our carbon emissions progressively declining from 2025. This is a decade earlier than previously expected.”

Reconstruction plan

Ramaphosa said that the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, launched in October 2020, has several measures to drive business and job creation in green industries

The Integrated Resource Plan 2019 also envisages the building of renewable energy capacity that can produce over 17 gigawatts of electricity by 2030, he said.

“These goals will only be achieved through collaboration across society, with government, labour, business, civil society and communities all working together towards a just transition.

“A just transition is one in which the country reduces its reliance on fossil fuels and its emission of greenhouse gases while sustaining economic growth, creating jobs and protecting those most affected by these changes.”

Ramaphosa said that business has a particularly important role, and that a number of South African companies are already addressing sustainability and climate change issues as part of their financial reporting.

“As a developing country, our economy is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels. That is why we continue to push on the world stage for the space to develop our economy and improve the lives of our people. This is why we need a just transition where the uptake of sustainable systems and technologies proceeds at a realistic pace.

“At the same time, we know the clock is ticking, and the impacts of climate change are worsening. According to the World Meteorological Association, 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record.”

Read: South Africa’s ‘expanded’ Covid vaccine rollout resumes this week

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Climate change is hurting South Africa’s economy: Ramaphosa