Environment, Forestry and Fisheries minister Barbara Creecy has conceded that traders in some of the largest economies in the world are unlikely to prioritise trade with SA because of its highly carbon-intensive production processes.
This posed a risk of non-tariff trade barriers, she said during the state of the nation debate on Wednesday.
Unlike other MPs, Creecy did not have much to say about President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address nor clapback against opposition parties who heavily criticised the address. She, however, said Ramaphosa did not “shy away” from addressing issues the country grappled with.
She used her 10 minutes’ speaking time to highlight issues and strides made in her portfolio in the past year.
Creecy said nine of the world’s 12 largest economies, and many of SA’s major trading partners, had in the past year made net zero carbon commitments, due to investor and societal pressures.
These countries included China, the European Union bloc, Japan, and Korea. However, the US was likely to follow suit after announcing its intention to rejoin the Paris Agreement.
“Because our energy and production processes are highly carbon-intensive, our major trading partners, who have made net zero commitments, are likely to prioritise trade with other low-carbon economies. This poses a risk of non-tariff trade barriers. Already there is increasing pressure from financial institutions who refuse to fund the development of new carbon-intensive assets,” said Creecy.
Eskom, the country’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, had committed in principle to net zero carbon emission by 2050, according to Creecy.
This as Ramaphosa during his address announced the importance the Presidential Climate Change Commission, which would meet for the first time this month. Creecy said the commission had the responsibility of developing a “clear plan to take us from an aspirational commitment to a low-carbon, climate resilient economy and society awake to the reality of new technology, new investment and, above all, new jobs”.
The commission was expected to provide institutional mechanisms to bring together the government, civil society, business and labour to advise the government on the just transition in a co-ordinated manner, according Creecy.
She highlighted the importance of investment in the green economy and green technologies, which were an advantage for the country.
“It opens access to new green financing opportunities; it offers the possibility of significant proven job creation; it has potential to localise production and services which will build small and medium enterprises; and of course it enhances our long-term competitiveness while mitigating our transition risks.
Quoting from Ramaphosa’s address “to forge a new economy in a new global reality”, Creecy said climate change was one of the new global realities. She cited the 2021 Global Risks Report published in January, which identified infectious diseases, livelihood crises and extreme weather as the risks most likely to become critical threats to the world in the next two years.
Creecy touched on the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) which saw the delivery capacity of 4,200MW of power last year.
“This capacity has already offset 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and saved us almost 60 million kilolitres of water. The programme has created 52,600 jobs, attracted R210bn in investment, pumped R1.2bn in socioeconomic development initiatives in local communities and promoted 33% ownership by historically disadvantaged South Africans,” she said.
Creecy wrapped up her address by indicating that the country would be undertaking public consultations on revising terms on reducing greenhouse gas emissions before submitting the final document to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ahead of the 26th Conference of Parties scheduled to take place in Glasgow in November.