South Africa

South Africa

Geopolitical Informations

55.02 million (2016)
Total area
1,221,037 km2

Main legislative bodies

  • Parliament of South Africa

Latest News

FOCUS AFRICA – South Africa: a coal-based economy hanging in the balance between development and CO2 abatement

With nearly 54 million inhabitants and the second biggest GDP in Africa  (after Nigeria, which got ahead in 2014),  South Africa is a crucial regional actor. The country is a coal-based, energy-intensive economy: according to IEA statistics, in 2014 coal accounted for about 70 percent of the national TPES (total primary energy supply); coal indeed read more…

South Africa plans offset scheme complementing carbon tax

South Africa’s National Treasury on Tuesday (April, 29) announced a set of proposals for a carbon offset scheme. According to official release, the measure is designed to help country’s companies in upscaling low-carbon investments and lowering their liabilities in the carbon tax scheduled to come into effect in 2016. South Africa is voluntarily committed to read more…

Canada, China, EU joint climate diplomacy emerges as US confirms exit from Paris deal

The governments of Canada, China, and the European Union on Saturday (Sept. 16)  convened a Ministerial Meeting on Climate Action  “to advance discussions on read more...

Climate Policy Facts


Year Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF ( MtCO2e) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per Capita ( tCO2e Per Capita) Total GHG Emissions Excluding LUCF Per GDP ( tCO2e / Million $ GDP)
1990 330.99 9.4 949.62
1991 326.63 9.09 946.76
1992 321.44 8.76 952.05
1993 327.75 8.75 958.92
1994 333.2 8.7 944.32
1995 350.23 8.95 962.58
1996 360.49 9.01 949.87
1997 375.33 9.17 963.48
1998 382.2 9.12 976.06
1999 8.51 911
2000 372.28 8.46 891.78
2001 372.28 8.46 891.78
2002 370.6 8.09 833.55
2003 397.89 8.57 869.29
2004 415.79 8.84 868.82
2005 409.92 8.6 813.62
2006 412.07 8.54 774.48
2007 439.28 8.98 782.24
2008 468.36 9.45 804.86
2009 450.1 8.96 785.47
2010 458.29 9 775.82
2011 456.85 8.86 747.54

The line chart shows the country’s carbon emissions by year, expressed in million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) for emission totals, and in tonnes of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) for per capita and per dollar of GDP values. It is based on data from CAIT platform provided by the World Resource Insititute, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

By selecting or deselecting each item, you can compare or give prominence to particular emission trends.



Energy Source Production (ktoe) TPES (ktoe)
Coal 143816,258 100727,643
Oil 100,048 15002,624
Natural gas 465,774 2948,299
Nuclear 3153,073 3153,073
Hydro 183,868 183,868
Geothermal 0 0
Solar thermal 66,1 66,1
Solar photovoltaics 0 0
Tide, wave, ocean 0 0
Wind 2,752 2,752
Biomass 14624,876 14624,876
Biofuels 0 -269,982
Waste 0 0

The double-doughnut chart shows the country’s energy production and TPES (Total Primary Energy Supply), expressed in thousand tonnes of oil equivalent (ktoe). It is built on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Energy Agency libraries, and updated regularly with the most recent data available.

The INNER RING represents the country’s energy production from each energy source, corresponding to the quantities of fuels extracted or produced.

The OUTER RING shows the country’s total primary energy supply of each fuel. It represents the net quantities of fuels made available on the domestic market, after foreign transfers and trading. According to IEA’s definition, TPES equals production plus imports minus exports minus international bunkers plus or minus stock changes.

Differences between production and TPES are significant as they highlight the actual country’s behaviour in the matter of a given energy source. Production values and TPES values of the same energy source may vary widely, especially in case of the much-traded fossil fuels.


National Policy


South Africa is a parliamentary, representative, democratic republic with a multi-party system. The overall state architecture is based on the civil law system with legislative, executive and judicative branches. The middle-income country is divided into nine provinces.

Considering the legislative, the Parliament consists of the National Assembly and its 400 members and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), which has 90 seats. Both houses need to pass a bill to become law. The bills are usually introduced by a Minister or a Deputy Minister, but also parliamentary committees and individual members of the Parliament have the right to introduce bills. Only if the bill deals with issues under responsibility of the provinces, they are first considered in the NCOP. However, the legislative process normally starts with a Green Paper for discussion and consultation, followed by a White Paper for details of the planned policy. The subsequent bill is then first discussed in the parliamentary committee in charge, before the Parliament takes a decision. The next election of the Parliament will take place in 2019.

The President of South Africa serves as both head of state and head of government. He or she is elected by the National Assembly. Since the end of the apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has dominated South Africa’s politics. The ANC has the majority in the Parliament and rules in eight provinces. The current president of South Africa is Jacob Zuma, who is in office since 2009.


In 2015, South Africa submitted its intended nationally determine contribution (INDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in advance to COP21 in Paris (see section on ‘International Policy’).

In general, South Africa has addressed climate change mainly through policies, strategies and regulations so far rather than through the adoption of legislative instruments.

National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reporting Regulations 2017
The regulation establishes a single national reporting system for greenhouse gases (GHGs). The system shall form the basis of future national GHG inventories, which have to be drafted under the UNFCCC, as well as of future policy-making on climate change. Sectors covered in the reporting system will be energy, transport, industry, agriculture and forestry. The regulation also lays down the calculation methodologies and verification procedures.
Full document available here.

National Climate Change Response Policy (NCCRP) 2011
The National Climate Change Response White Paper was approved by the Cabinet in 2011 and represents the key climate policy of South Africa. It includes the long-term vision for the country of a just transition to a climate-resilient and low-carbon economy and society. The policy treats mitigation and adaptation in an integrated manner by relying on the approach of a “climate change-resilient development”. The objective of the white paper is both to effectively manage inevitable climate change impacts and to make a fair contribution to the global efforts to mitigate climate change. As such, three planning horizons are employed: The short-term provisions focus on the five years following the date of publication of the policy, the medium-term on twenty years thereafter and the long-term on the period up to 2050.
With respect to mitigation, the policy sets out that GHG emissions shall peak at the latest by 2020-2025 at a level between 398 to 613 MtCO2eq. Afterwards, emissions are supposed to stabilise for one whole decade. From 2036 onwards, GHG emissions shall then be reduced to 212 to 428 MtCO2eq by 2050. This represents the “peak, plateau and decline trajectory” (PPD). In order to achieve these numbers, the policy requires the formulation of mitigation and low-carbon development strategies for all relevant economic sectors or sub-sectors. In order to provide sufficient flexibility for the economy, a carbon budget approach is adopted for the individual sectors. This means that a desired emission reduction outcome is defined in consistency with the overall GHG emission trajectory. Thereby, the specified numbers will be based on an assessment of the mitigation potentials and options as well as the costs and benefits.
Furthermore, the NCCRP focuses on adaptation. Accordingly, South Africa intends to follow a regional approach in adapting to climate change due to similar risks and vulnerabilities in neighbouring countries. At the same time, the much more local context of adaptation has to be counted in. Overall, a science-based approach is required to reduce uncertainties by making credible long-term climate projections about future impacts and to be able to assess the effectiveness of adaptation responses. The latter may for instance include early warning systems for disaster risk reduction and planning based on forecasts of resource challenges. Job opportunities shall be utilised in this respect. In addition, based on the already initiated work on sectoral adaptation responses, a committee shall be established to analyse these plans. This is supposed to result in a proper identification and prioritisation of measures and strategies for the short- and medium-term and respective coordination needs. This relates to the areas of water, agriculture and commercial forestry, health, biodiversity and ecosystems, human settlements (including urban, rural and coastal settlements), and disaster risk reduction and management. As a consequence, adaptation strategies shall be mainstreamed into sectoral plans, such as the National Water Resource Strategy, the Strategic Plan for South African Agriculture, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, the Department of Health Strategic Plan, the Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Sustainable Human Settlements and the National Framework for Disaster Risk Management.
Beyond that, the NCCRP includes eight near-term priority flagship programmes, which form an integral part of the policy, as they stress the urgency of action. For each of the programme, an implementation plan, a detailed analysis of resulting outcomes and an assessment of sustainable development co-benefits shall be undertaken. The flagship programmes address public works, water conservation and demand management, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy demand, transportation, waste management, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and adaptation research.
Additionally, the NCCRP sets out that the National Treasury shall develop a carbon tax policy. Moreover, several other economic instruments shall be used for implementation, such as the provision of incentives. Further, the policy clarifies responsibilities and institutional arrangements of the Parliament and several committees (Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change, Forum of South African Directors-General clusters, Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change, National Disaster Management Council) as well as of the provincial and local governments. A number of new arrangements are set into place, too, such as the National Committee on Climate Change and the National Economic Development and Labour Council. Finally, the NCCRP aims to mobilise resources, promote science and research, and includes provisions for the monitoring and evaluation of the policy itself.
Full document available here or as pdf.

Taxation Law Amendment Bill 2009 (Amendment of the 1962 Income Tax Act)
The Amendment Bill includes income tax incentives for participation in CDM projects and energy efficiency savings.
Full document available here.

Vision, Strategic Direction and Framework for Climate Policy 2008
The document was announced by the then Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. The policy sets a framework for the transition of the electricity sector to net zero-carbon emissions, after it had been consulted with members of the government, civil society and the private sector. It is based on the long-term mitigation scenario (LTMS) study that was created in 2006 to inform long-term climate policy. The framework already included the target of peaking emissions between 2020-2025, to stabilise GHG emissions for ten years and to reduce emissions thereafter as one of six themes. Secondly, energy efficiency and electricity demand management measures were to be strengthened. In addition, the National Treasury was tasked to study the introduction of a carbon tax. Third, specific actions and measures in key economic sectors, such as in the transport sector, were supposed to be taken to promote the transition to a low-carbon economy and society. This included also the development of a renewable energy sector. The fourth theme is to prepare for the future by supporting research and development, while the fifth theme relates to vulnerability and adaptation. Finally, the sixth theme provides for alignment, coordination and cooperation of stakeholders and institutions.
For more information see the IEA website on the framework.


South Africa is highly dependent on coal for power generation and energy production. Thus, South Africa has relatively high per capita emissions, which have been also historically quite high. According to South Africa’s NDC, a complete transformation of the future energy mix has to ensue, replacing the inefficient fleet of ageing coal-fired power plants with clean and high efficiency technology.
Until several years ago, excess capacity and cheap coal due to domestic mining translated into one of the lowest prices for electricity in the world. However, in 2007, the country experienced shortages due to a lack of investments and delays in constructing new energy infrastructure. Eskom, the public energy company, which holds a monopoly in providing electricity by supplying 96 percent of electricity in South Africa, even introduced load-shedding practices. As a result, South Africa is today among the 20 countries with the highest cost of electricity. Meanwhile, 15 percent of households still lack access to modern energy services. Nevertheless, the country possesses a structure legislative energy framework.

Industrial Policy Action Plans (IPAPs)
The plans are published by the Department of Trade & Industry and the Economic Development Department. The documents inter alia identify opportunities of the green economy by developing energy efficient industries and related services. Thus, they also highlight the need for improved energy efficiency in the manufacturing sector.
The version of 2014/2015 – 2016/2017 is here available.

Income Tax Act 2013
The law provides for energy efficiency saving allowances, which can be deducted from taxable income. However, this does not apply if governmental support is received for the energy efficiency measures or if the projects are based on renewable energies or co-generation. In 2016, the allowance was more than doubled and co-generation is now eligible to receive the incentive.
For more information see here.

Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P) 2011
In 2009, South Africa explored the establishment of a feed-in tariff to support the electricity generation from renewable energies. In 2011, it was then decided to instead use a tender process, which led to the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P). The REI4P supports the technologies onshore wind, solar photovoltaic, concentrated solar power, biomass, landfill gas and small hydro projects. A ceiling tariff level is established for each technology in the auctions. Winning bidders, the independent power producers (IPPs), sign power purchase agreements (PPAs) with Eskom as the grid provider, which are guaranteed for a period of 20 years. The criteria for the auctioning include the creation of a local industry, job creation, Black Economic Empowerment and technology transfer. The Department of Energy (DOE) initially stated that it would procure 3.725 GW of renewable power in five rounds. Only several months later in 2012, the DOE announced that a further 3.2 GW of renewable energy generation capacity would be procured by 2020. As of April 2016 (and likely also at the time of updating this profile in August 2017), 6.4 GW have been procured in four bidding rounds according to the Independent Power Producers Office. The goal is to add 7 GW in total until 2020. The REI4P has been successful in generating interest in renewable energy project development, with all bidding rounds significantly over-subscribed. For example, in 2013, the DOE received 93 bids with a collective capacity 0f more than 6 GW for an allocation of around 1.5 GW. However, there have been considerable delays in connecting the renewable energy projects to the grid. Eskom is accused to stall signing PPAs, which would guarantee the grid access. For instance, as of June 2017, Eskom has not yet signed any agreement with the IPPs of projects procured in 2015. This has adverse consequences for the economic viability of the IPP companies, endangers the achievement of the renewable energy targets and reduces the attractiveness of South Africa for renewable energy investments.
More information available here.

Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2010
The Integrated Resource Plan identifies South Africa’s electricity needs and the respective required generation capacities, technologies and costs for meeting the demand. It is a subset of the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP; see below). The IRP version of 2010 relates to the time up to 2030.Initially, capacity additions of 9.6 nuclear power, 6.3 GW coal-fired electricity, 11.4 renewable energy and 11 GW of other generation sources were strived for. Following a review and update of the IPR in 2013, the plan includes a goal of 17.8 GW of electricity from renewable sources, although the overall projected demand for 2030 was reduced by 6.6 GW. The 17.8 GW represent 42 percent of the additions envisaged in the IPR. In addition, the amount of other sources supposed to be added until 2030 was changed to 8.9 GW, while the numbers for nuclear and coal remained the same. However, there were already further approved power plans before the adoption of the IPR, including 10 GW of coal capacity compared to negligible renewable energy capacity additions. As of August 2017, 7.94 GW of coal power plants were under construction with a further 6.95 GW in the pipeline (i.e. permitted, in the pre-permit development phase or announced) according to the Global Coal Plant Tracker. As a result, South Africa would have a total installed capacity of 89.5 GW by 2030 with shares of 45.9 percent coal, 12.7 percent nuclear, 21 percent renewable energy and the remainder from sources such as gas and hydropower. The share of renewable energies is still quite low considering the tremendous potential across the clean energy landscape, be it wind, solar, marine, biogas, waste-to-energy, or just about any other clean, renewable resource. Nonetheless, the country has the largest installed renewable energy capacity on the African continent. According to the Renewables 2017 Global Status Report of REN21, South Africa even had the highest capacity addition of concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) in 2016 in the world (however, except of South Africa only China added any CSP capacity in 2016). As a result, the country had the fourth largest CSP capacity worldwide in 2016.
Full document available here. The Update Report of 2013 is available here.

National Energy Act No.34 of 2008
The law aims to ensure the security of energy supply and strives to diversify the energy mix, while supporting economic growth and poverty alleviation through affordable energy prices. As such, it provides for integrated energy planning, including contingency energy supply, maintenance of the energy infrastructure, holding of strategic energy feedstocks and carriers as well as increased generation and consumption of renewable energies. Thus, it lays down that the Minister of Energy has to develop, review and publish the Integrated Energy Plan (IEP; see below). The purpose and objectives of the IEP are defined as well in the law. Accordingly, the IEP has to deal with energy supply, transformation, transport, storage and demand. It shall determined the best way to meet current and future energy needs in the most efficient and socially beneficial manner. Moreover, the law aims to improve relevant data and information on energy demand, supply and generation. Additionally, the law establishes the South African National Energy Development Institution, responsible for the promotion of efficient generation and consumption of energy as well as energy research.
Full document available here.

Energy Efficiency Strategy 2005 (revised in 2008 and 2013)
It aims to achieve energy savings of 12 percent by 2015, with shares of 10 percent in the residential sector and 15 percent in the commercial sector. As implementing instruments, the strategy includes economic and legislative means, efficiency labels and performance standards, energy management activities and energy audits, as well as the promotion of efficient practices. More specifically, measures described are variable speed drives, efficient motors, compressed air management, efficient lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling and thermal savings (more efficient use and production of heat). Moreover, the strategy encompasses sectoral plans for industry and mining, commercial and public buildings, residential sector and the transport sector. In addition, it addresses cross-cutting issues, such as integrated energy planning, renewable energy, environment and health, and the Cleaner Fuels Programme.
A post-2015 National Energy Efficiency Strategy is currently under consideration, which is expected to set a target of reducing final energy consumption by 29 percent below 2015 levels until 2030.
Full document available as pdf.

Air Quality Act No.39 of 2004
The Act mandates that norms, standards, mechanisms, systems and procedures be issued to improve air quality. It established the national framework within which these standards will be created. Moreover, it gives the Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, or the members of the Executive Council of the provinces (MEC), the authority to issue standards, enforce regulations and other measures and implement penalties for non-compliance and establish “funding arrangements”.
Full document available as pdf.

Integrated Energy Plan (IEP) 2003
The Integrated Energy Plan outlines the direction and steps to be taken by South Africa to meet its energy needs. The plan declares South Africa’s continued reliance on coal, but also uses modelling to forecast which energy sources can be used most effectively to meet demand under different scenarios. The plan advocates diversification of energy sources, including renewables, as well as fuel switching to improve energy efficiency.

Further policies in the energy sector
There is a variety of further policies in the energy sector in South Africa. These include the New Growth Path Framework 2011 (calls inter alia for comprehensive support for energy efficiency), the Cleaner Production Strategy 2005, the Renewable Energy Policy 2004 and the Integrated Clean Household Energy Strategy 2003. Moreover, a zero-carbon building standard for 2030 is currently in the planning process.


Updated Carbon Tax Policy Paper 2013
The National Treasury published the Carbon Tax Policy Paper on May 1, 2013, with the purpose of collecting public comments on reducing GHG emissions and facilitating the transition to a green economy. This was the second and final round of comments requested on the carbon tax policy, before the government intended to proceed with the publication of draft legislation to give effect to carbon taxes. The initial implementation was planned for from 1 January 2015. In 2014, the Minister of Finance announced in the new budget that the carbon tax will be postponed to 2016. As of May 2017, the start date of the carbon tax remains unclear; a new date is expected to be announced still during 2017.
The Carbon Tax Policy Paper updates the 2010 discussion paper “Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Carbon Tax Option” and takes into account the public comments received. It considers the principles in both the 2010 paper as well as the 2006 Environmental Fiscal Reform Policy Paper, which provided a policy context and foundation for the use of taxes and incentives to support the attainment of environmental objectives in a cost efficient, socially equitable and fiscally effective manner.
The proposal is not an ad valorem tax; it will only apply above a threshold of 60 percent of emissions of relevant facilities. Additional concessions of 10 percent can be granted for process emissions and in case of trade-exposed sectors to safeguard competitiveness. For instance, the electricity sector would thus receive the 60 percent threshold, while for the petroleum sector the 70 percent boundary would apply. Iron and steel, cement, glass, ceramics, chemicals and fugitive emissions from coal mining would even have an 80 percent threshold. The agricultural and the waste sector are completely exempted. The tax is supposed to start with a value of a bit more than USD 10 per tonne of CO2eq and shall increase annually by 10 percent until 2020. The rate of increase of the period thereafter has not yet been determined.
South Africa has already in place a levy for electricity generated from non-renewable sources, which was increased from USD 0.0009 per kWh to USD 0.003 per kWh in 2012. The additional revenues springing from the levy will be used to fund energy-efficiency initiatives. The levy is expected to be ceased as soon as the carbon tax is introduced.
Full document available here or as pdf.

South Africa has also introduced a tax on international air passenger departures on flights to Southern African Customs Union member states and other international destinations, which was increased in 2011. Moreover, there is a CO2 emissions tax on passenger vehicles since 2010, which is as well a flat tax rate and not an ad valorem tax as initially strived for. In 2013, the tax was raised from USD 6.77 to USD 8.1 for every gram of emissions/km above 120 g CO2 per km for passenger cars and from USD 9 to USD 11.3 above 175 g CO2 per km for double cabs.


A green transport strategy is currently under development. It is supposed to set out the objectives to reach 10 percent electric and hybrid vehicles and use of environmentally sustainable low-carbon fuels of the national car fleet by 2022. In general, investments in public transportation infrastructure is supposed to increase by five percent annually.

Biofuels Industrial Strategy 2007
The strategy proposes the adoption of a five-year pilot program to achieve a 2 percent penetration level of biofuels in the national liquid fuel supply. It further proposes the utilisation of certain crops for the production of biofuels, and excludes others on the grounds of food security. It recommends the use of a fuel levy exemption for biodiesel and bioethanol.

Transportation programme as part of the Energy Efficiency Strategy 2005 (see above)
The transportation programme included in the Energy Efficiency Strategy aims to promote fuel efficiency labelling, fleet audits, programmes for encouraging public transportation development and use, and efficient vehicle technologies, including respective requirements for public procurement.

Implementation strategy for the control of exhaust emissions from road-going vehicles (2004 for vehicle standard and 2006 for fuel specifications)
The strategy sets out a roadmap for government, the oil industry and the vehicle manufacturing industry to achieve improved air quality through the control of vehicle emissions. The legislation applies a clearly defined timetable for the implementation of European standards for vehicle exhaust emissions and appropriate fuel specifications. Initial vehicle emissions limits began in 2005 for newly homologated vehicles and will come into full effect in 2006 when all new vehicles will be subjected to Euro-2 emissions controls. The fuel specification will change in 2006 when a total ban of the use of lead in petrol will come into effect.


South African National Carbon Sinks Assessment 2015
The assessment was commissioned by the Department of Environmental Affairs and provides an estimate for different types of carbon sequestration projects in agriculture, land rehabilitation, spekboom planting, soil restoration and so on. By 2020, around 8 million tonnes of CO2eq reduction per year shall be achieved through carbon sequestration projects, increasing to 16 million tonnes by 2030.
Full document available here.


The competency conferred on the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism by the Environmental Conservation Act (ECA) to issue permits for the landfilling of wastes has been delegated to the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). DWAF subsequently developed a trilogy of documents, namely The Minimum Requirements to provide standards and give legal effect to the permitting and licensing of waste management facilities in South Africa. The trilogy provides graded standards for:

  • The Handling, Classification and Disposal of Hazardous Waste. This document classifies hazardous wastes into four hazard ratings and prescribes the technical requirements for the receiving landfills;
  • Waste Disposal by Landfill. This document deals with general waste and the requirements for the classes of landfills;
  • Water Monitoring at Waste Management Facilities.

The first edition of The Minimum Requirements was published in 1994 and the second edition in 1998.

Over the past 10 years, South Africa has made great strides in addressing key issues, requirements and problems experienced in waste management. Although the Environmental Conservation Act (ECA) addresses issues such as littering, permitting of waste disposal sites and regulatory competency, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act No. 108 of 1996 has for the first time guaranteed the right of South Africans to a clean and healthy environment.

This was followed by the Draft White Paper on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management for South Africa, which was published in 1998. The White Paper advocates a shift from the present focus on waste disposal and impact control to integrated waste management and prevention as well as minimisation. In terms of legal changes, this will entail national government drafting legislation requiring the prevention and minimisation of waste. The White Paper, in turn, gave rise to the formulation of a National Waste Management Strategy and Action Plan, a collaborative effort between DEAT and DWAF with Danish financial and technical assistance and input by many interested and affected parties.

A few of the many separate acts addressing waste management are:

  • Act No.26 on National Environmental Management Waste Amendment 2014. Full document available as pdf.
  • Act No.25  on National Environmental Management Laws Amendment 2014
  • Act No. 107  on National Environmental Management 1998
  • Act No.36 on National Water 1998
  • Act No.15 on Hazardous Substances 1973
  • Act No.63 on Health 1977
  • Act No.131 on Nuclear Energy 1993


According to South Africa’s NDC, the country is particularly vulnerable to climate change, especially in respect of water and food security. A global average temperature rise of 2°C would translate into up to 4°C for South Africa by the end of the century. Between 2010 and 2015, South Africa would have increased its spending on adaptation from USD 1.64 billion to USD 2.31 billion.

South Africa National Adaptation Strategy
The South Africa National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) is intended to become the central climate adaptation document of South Africa, treating different sectors and regions in an integrated manner. A draft version of September 2016 is currently in circulation seeking comments from relevant stakeholders. The strategy is supposed to have the vision of a transition towards a climate-resilient South Africa, in line with the NCCRP. Hence, it shall reduce vulnerability by building adaptive capacities, facilitate the integration of climate change adaptation in planning processes and strategies, and optimise policy coherence within and across sectors. The NAS will be based on the Long Term Adaptation Scenario (LTAS) Flagship Programme of the NCCRP (see below). It is supposed to be updated repeatedly based on comprehensive monitoring and review as well as new scientific findings. Additionally, it shall take into account local and indigenous knowledge and gender considerations as well as social, economic and environmental implications of sustainable development. Moreover, it has to be aligned with the adaptation goals formulated in the South African NDC (see section on ‘International Policy’). The NAS will also serve as a basis for the National Adaptation Plan process under the UNFCCC.

National Framework towards an Adaptation Strategy 2014
The framework established a roadmap towards the NAS (see above).

South African Adaptation Fund
The South African National Biodiversity Institute facilitates and oversees as implementing entity the USD 10 million South African Adaptation Fund. First adaptation projects were approved in 2014 and initiated in 2015. One project strives to increase resilience of vulnerable communities through early warning systems, climate smart agriculture and climate proofing settlements with an amount of USD 7.5 million. The second project, which disposes of the remaining USD 2.5 million, will establish a small grant climate finance mechanism.

National Climate Change Response White Paper 2011
South Africa’s NCCRP provided the first comprehensive outline of the government’s responsibilities on climate change mitigation and adaptation (see above). In the following, as part of the adaptation research flagship programme, a national process to scope long-term adaptation scenarios began in 2013, when the National Department of Environmental Affairs commissioned the LTAS project. The goal of the project was to better understand socio-economic and climatic risk to inform planning and practice on climate change. The LTAS aimed to develop national and sub-national adaptation scenarios under a range of future climate conditions and development pathways in order to incorporate climate resilience in development planning. It developed a consensus view of climate change trends and projections and summarised key impacts and potential response options in primary sectors (i.e. water, agriculture and forestry, human health, marine fisheries, and biodiversity).

For more information on the South African adaptation policy see here.


Main sources (if not otherwise stated in the text)

Country profile of South Africa on the website of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

Maupin (2016): South Africa: Carbon-Intensive Economy and a Regional Renewable Energy frontrunner. In: Roehrkasten, S., Thielges, S. and Quitzow, R. (eds.): Sustainable Energy in the G20 – Prospects for a Global Energy Transition. IASS Study, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam, Germany, 109 pp.

International Policy

General features

  • Party to the UNFCCC (non-Annex I Party)
    • Date of signature: 15 June 1993
    • Date of ratification: 29 August 1997
    • Date of entry into force: 27 November 1997
  • Party to the Kyoto Protocol (no emission reduction obligation)
    • Date of signature: —
    • Date of ratification: 31 July 2002
    • Date of entry into force: 16 February 2005
    • Date of Acceptance Doha Amendment: 7 May 2015
  • Signatory to the Copenhagen Accord (pledge to reduce emissions by 34 percent below business-as-usual (BAU) scenario by 2020 and by 42 percent by 2025)
  • Party to the Paris Agreement
    • Date of signature: 22 April 2016
    • Date of ratification: 1 November 2016
    • Date of entry into force: 1 December 2016
  • Post 2020 action: Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in advance of COP21 in Paris in 2015 (for more information on INDCs see here). Main actions include:
    • Mitigation component
      • Based on the “peak, plateau and decline trajectory” (PPD) of the NCCRP (see section on ‘National Policy’): peak between 2020 and 2025 with emissions in a range between 398 and 614 MtCO2eq, plateau for one decade and decline thereafter;
      • Economy wide target, including six GHGs with focus on CO2, CH4 and N2O; using IPCC guidelines and metrics as methodologies.
    • Adaptation component
      • Develop a National Adaptation Plan;
      • Develop an early warning, vulnerability and adaptation monitoring system for key sectors and vulnerable geographic regions;
      • Develop a vulnerability assessment and adaptation needs framework by 2020.
    • Support component includes estimates of total costs and a list of technologies that would help South Africa to reduce emissions.
    • Conditionality
      • South Africa’s INDC was premised on the adoption of a comprehensive, ambitious, fair, effective and binding multilateral rules-based agreement.
      • It is emphasised that the extent to which developing countries will implement their commitments will depend on the support provided by developed countries. In addition, it is highlighted that equity, economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of South Africa.
    • The Climate Action Tracker has rated the NDC of South Africa as “inadequate”, indicating that the contribution is not in line with the below 2°C target, let alone 1.5°C. The high range of peaking emissions was particularly criticised. In addition, South Africa needs to implement additional policies to reach its NDC targets, as current policy-based projections indicate a continued growth in emissions.

Multilateral and bilateral cooperation

  • South Africa is a member of the G20 and the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate Change.
  • Moreover, South Africa has joined the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the global multi-stakeholder Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21).
  • In addition, South Africa belongs to the NDC Partnership, which strives to facilitate the implementation of NDCs and sustainable development commitments for achieving the SDGs.
  • Furthermore, South Africa is a member of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF).
  • India-Brazil-South Africa Declaration on Clean Energy (IBSA) is a trilateral development initiative that was initiated in 2003 to promote South-South initiatives on development, trade & investment, information exchange and cooperation in areas including agriculture, energy, health and climate change.
  • South Africa is a key energy player in the Southern African region. Its state company Eskom is also regionally active with almost 80 percent of regional supply and demand within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) [1]. More than 75 percent of regional operating capacity comes from South Africa. Nevertheless, the SADC lacks investment in a regional framework to align policies and initiatives. An exception is the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP), which was created in 1995 by several regional power utilities [2] to facilitate the exchange of energy. Moreover, the Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (SACREEE) was recently opened in Namibia.
  • South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo have established an energy-related cooperative framework. For example, a hydropower plant in Congo is supposed to provide energy for South Africa. However, the lack of engagement of Zambia and Zimbabwe as transitory countries in the approach is concerning.


[1] The members of the SADC are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

[2] The SAPP members include the national power utilities of Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Negotiating position

South Africa has hosted COP17 in Durban in 2011. In the international climate negotiations, South Africa is not only a member of the G-77 and China, but also of the BASIC Group and the African Group of Negotiators. South Africa sees the solution of climate change clearly in collective global action.

South Africa states that it is committed to contributing its fair share to global GHG mitigation efforts, based on science and equity as well as cooperative efforts to adapt to the unavoidable adverse impacts of climate change. South Africa also believes that global GHG reduction efforts must work in tandem with a pro-poor adaptation agenda. In its NDC, South Africa thus also emphasises the challenge of climate change for developing countries, whose overriding priorities are to eliminate poverty and eradicate inequality. The South African approach to climate change negotiations is based on some principles, among the others entrenched in the Constitution, national legislation and a number of relevant international agreements:

  • The principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibility and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC): The implementation of measures aimed at reducing the country’s contribution to global climate change need to be mindful of the unique state of development and vulnerability and of the capabilities to act of single countries. This concept refers to the evidence that developing countries have contributed least to GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, but face some of the worst consequences and generally have the least capacity to cope with climate change impacts.
  • The Precautionary Principle: A risk-averse and cautious approach is required, which takes into account the limits of current knowledge about the consequences of decisions and actions.
  • The Polluter Pays Principle: The costs of remedying pollution, environmental degradation and consequent adverse health effects and of preventing, controlling or minimising further pollution, environmental damage or adverse health effects must be paid for by those responsible for harming the environment.
  • A people-centred approach: The prioritisation of climate change mitigation and adaptation actions has to ensure human dignity, especially considering the special vulnerabilities of the poor and in particular of women, youth and the aged. In this regard, the requirement of social equity and economic sustainability while enhancing environmental stewardship are recognised.
  • Informed participation: The understanding of the science of climate change, information streams and technology to ensure citizen participation and action at all levels need to be enhanced. The participation of all interested and affected parties must be promoted, and all people must have the opportunity to develop the understanding, skills and capacity necessary for achieving equitable and effective participation. Participation by vulnerable and disadvantaged persons must be censure.
  • Inter-generational rights: The fundamental human needs of the people need to be met by, in part, managing our limited ecological resources responsibly for current and future generations.

South Africa submitted its INDC (see above) against the expectation of the adoption of a new climate agreement in Paris that is binding, fair, effective and incorporates a progressive, no-backsliding approach to enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation implementation and ambition. For this purpose, sufficient finance, technology and capacity-building support have to be provided. South Africa’s INDC was also premised on the adoption of a comprehensive, fair, effective and binding multilateral rule-based agreement that attracts universal participation and is consistent with what is required by science. According to South Africa, the agreement also had to include effective arrangements for transparency of action and support. The principles of equity and CBDR-RC should be clearly reflected in the agreement, for instance through the elaboration on an equity reference framework for equitable effort-sharing. Furthermore, South Africa advocated for mechanisms and tools to enhance international and regional cooperation on both mitigation and adaptation, especially as it considers adaptation as a global responsibility in light of the ultimate objective of the Convention, as it is being driven by global action or inaction on mitigation. Regarding to the long-term goals of the Agreement, South Africa favoured the 1.5°C target over the 2°C boundary and demanded near-zero GHG emissions in the second half of the century. Besides, South Africa requested a process for the improvement of information on finance and investments, integrated in existing reporting instruments of both developed and developing countries.