The dilemma with reliance on coal
South Africa is one of the countries worldwide that is heavily dependent on coal for the generation of electricity, with nearly 90% of its energy derived from coal-fired power stations.
However, there is urgency on local and global levels because of the impact that mining and coal burning has on the plant, representing an immediate threat to all lifeforms and scarce water supplies, leading to toxic pollution of the air and water and the degradation of arable land.
South Africa is not the only country in the world that is trying to adjust its energy mix by committing to move away from fossil fuels towards greener options. However, despite many policy commitments, South Africa is not doing enough to make the necessary changes and it has become a country that is stuck in a phase of “transition” instead.
Can South Africa’s government finally commit?
According to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe “rich nations” cannot force South Africa to ban new coal-powered projects, and neither can they force additional conditions as a requirement, especially where funding to help the country’s environmental footprint is concerned.
Mantashe skipped a meeting with the climate envoys from the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, France, and the European Union in the past month. This would have been an important gathering because it involved discussions surrounding 5 billion US dollar (73 billion ZAR) concession loans.
Despite global efforts to move towards a greener future, Mantashe stressed that these countries are developed, whereas South Africa, as a developing country cannot be given the same treatment.
In addition, Mantashe has also repeatedly stressed that his priorities lay in securing power supply and promoting coal, nuclear, and gas as primary sources of power generation to replace any old coal-fired plants.
This attitude does not bode well for South Africa’s move towards a greener future, and it keeps South Africa in a constant phase of “transitioning” without real commitment, which is a significant problem and leaves South Africa behind many other countries adopting greener policies.