SA coal deal could usher in global alliances crucial to green future
Agreements need to pull in developed nations but leave responsibility with governments and incentivise them to act
Positive environmental news is rare. All the more reason to cheer an effort that might see wealthy nations help SA curb its coal addiction. If the deal goes through in the right form, it will offer a lifeline for a nation struggling to reduce its heavy dependence on the dirtiest of fuels. No less importantly, it will be a model for the sort of support that can be extended to other coal-reliant emerging economies juggling green pressures, urgent development needs and grim fiscal realities — and without which the world cannot reach its climate goals.
SA’s economy was sputtering even before Covid-19, with a negative per-capita growth rate and unemployment running at nearly 30%. The pandemic made everything worse and left the government struggling to rein in its debt. At the heart of this crisis is creaking, coal-gobbling state power utility Eskom, which has created a crippling burden for the guarantor of much of its debt and crowded out greener, often cheaper, alternatives.
As a middle-income economy, SA wouldn’t normally qualify for concessionary finance and the near-$5bn of grants and other support on the table in discussions with envoys from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the EU. But, with alarm bells ringing loudly and the COP26 climate talks weeks away, this is a long-overdue recognition of the role developed economies have to play in transition well beyond their own borders...