The developing countries at the global climate talks have stated for years that they need more financial assistance from wealthy nations in order to accelerate their transition from fossil fuels.
The world is about to see how it might work in practice.
On Tuesday, South Africa was represented at the Glasgow climate summit announced that it had secured commitments for $8.5 billion in financing over the next five years from Britain, France, Germany, the United States and European Union to help install more clean energy, accelerate the country’s transition away from coal power and cushion the blow for workers who may be affected by the shift.
“This is a big deal,” said Jesse Burton, an energy policy researcher and senior associate at the University of Cape Town and E3G, a research group that focuses on climate change. “It’s a major test of whether wealthy nations can help developing countries embark on a just transition away from coal.”
South Africa, the world’s 15th-largest emitter, relies overwhelmingly on coal, which supplies 87 percent of the nation’s electricity. The country is a great example of how coal can be used to generate electricity. has pledgedIt faces huge obstacles to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions between now & 2030 as part of global efforts against climate change.
South Africa’s state-owned utility, Eskom, is drowning in more than $27 billion in debtThis is partly due to investments in coal plants. The utility has struggled with reliable power supply and often resorts to rolling blackouts in order to meet demand.
Analysts believe that South Africa will need a rapid pace in the retirement of its coal plants, as well as large amounts renewable energy generation, transmission lines, and other measures to meet its ambitious climate goals by 2030.
Making the task even tougher, the country’s fragile economy remains dependent on coal jobs, with more than 120,000 peopleWorking in power plants or mines. Politically contentious discussions about when and how to move away from coal were held in the past.
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said Tuesday that the $8.5 million in loans and grants offered by wealthy countries could help the country accelerate its transition to renewable energy. Eskom also has access to resources to repurpose coal stations due for retirement in the coming 15 years.
The country would also consider initiatives to create new jobs in the field of ex-coal miners.
“It is proof that we can take ambitious climate action while increasing our energy security, creating jobs and harnessing new opportunities for investment, with support from developed economies,” Mr. Ramaphosa said.
There are still many questions about the practical operation of the partnership. Details about how much clean energy will be developed and how much coal will be phased off are still unknown.
Analysts also raised questions about whether donor countries will honor their promises, transparency regarding how funds are used, and whether the funds will benefit local communities.