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…

IN DEPTH: A tangled case – Turkey’s status under UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement

Despite joining the position of all G20 members except of the US to designate the Paris Agreement as “irreversible”, shortly after the summit in 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


In 2015 South Africa did submit its INDCs to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in advance to the COP21 in Paris (see International Policy).

Updated Carbon Tax Policy Paper (2013)

The National Treasury publishes on 1 May 2013 the Carbon Tax Policy Paper, with the purpose of collecting public comments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and facilitating the transition to a green economy. This is the second and final round of comments requested on carbon tax policy, before government proceeds with the publication of draft legislation to give effect to carbon taxes for implementation from 1 January 2015.
This 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 takes account of the principles in both the 2010 paper as well as the 2006 Environmental Fiscal Reform Policy Paper, which provides 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. Full document available here, download in pdf: South-Africa-Carbon-Tax-Policy-Paper-2013

National Climate Change Response Policy (2011)

In 2009, ahead of the Copenhagen U.N. Climate Conference (COP17), South Africa announced its national strategy to achieve the objective of reducing emissions by 34 percent by 2020 and 42 percent by 2025.

Indeed, the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs formally released a White Paper (full document available in pdf: South-Africa-National-Climate-Change-Response-White-Paper-2011 ), which includes the “National Climate Change Response Policy” approved by the Cabinet. The programme, expected to be finalized within two years, will put an emissions cap on key sectors (such as electricity, fuels, mining and transport industries) and will implement a new set of energy regulations to promote electricity production from renewable sources. It will require to companies and economic sectors to submit mitigation plans that set out how they intend to achieve emissions reduction goals. To provide flexibility and minimize the cost, a carbon budget approach will be adopted as well as a wide range of policies including the pricing of carbon, economic incentives, and the use of offset or emission reduction trading mechanisms.

The achievement of South Africa’s climate change response objective will also be brought about by employing the strategies outlined below and, specifically, through the implementation of various policy approaches and actions.
The key sectors required to implement climate change adaptation responses are:

• Water: water is arguably the primary medium through which climate change impacts will be felt by people, ecosystems and economies;
• Agriculture: after water, the prognosis for domestic food security and the agricultural industry more broadly, is a major cause for concern;
• Human Health: further threats to an already challenging national health profile is also of concern.

The second set of sectors includes energy, industry and transport (this last responsible for over 8% of South Africa’s total emissions). The remaining sectors are Disaster Risk Management, the Natural resources, Society, Livelihoods and Services.


Aiming to transform its economy and environmental trend, South Africa invested $125 million in clean energy as of 2009, placing it 17th out of 20 G-20 nations, according to the “G20 Clean Energy Factbook”. In the same year, the South African government enacted a renewable energy tariff that’s intended to serve as the linchpin of a broader national goal of generating 10,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of renewable electrical power by 2013. However, the Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff (REFIT) continues to be challenged by public opinion and national industries while being stymied in the courts by opposition and has yet to make a significant impact.

South Africa’s government has established the following renewable energy targets:

• Solar Photovoltaic: 14% of electricity supply by 2050;
• Solar Thermal Electric: 43TWh (terawatt-hours) by 2030;
• Wind Energy: between ‘modest’ to ‘abundant’ prospects;
• Hydropower: 4700 MW;
• Biomass: In the longer term, around 9 to 16% of energy demand;
• Landfill gas: 7.2 to 10.8 TWh of electricity generation by 2040;
• Waves and other categories: 33 TWh per year by 2050.

Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (2011)

REIPPP is a public procurement programme, replaced the Feed-in Tariff system, which was introduced in 2009. This IPP Procurement Programme has been designed so as to contribute towards the target of 3,725 megawatts. Qualifying technologies are onshore wind, solar PV, solar thermal, biomass solid, biogas, landfill gas and small hydro plants. A ceiling tariff level is established for each technology in the auctions. Winning bidders sign PPAs, which are guaranteed for a period of 20 years.

In September 2015, four bidding rounds, with 5,400 MW of renewable projects procured under the REIPPP (2015) have been completed. The REIPPP has been successful in generating interest in renewable energy project development, with all bidding rounds significantly over-subscribed.

Integrated Resource Plan (2010)

It sets a goal of producing 17.8 GW of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. That amounts to less than 10 percent of projected 2030 national electricity demand production, a decidedly unambitious goal for a nation that has tremendous potential across the clean energy landscape, be it wind, solar, marine, biogas, waste-to-energy, or just about any other clean, renewable resource.

Energy efficiency strategy for industry (2005)

It aims to achieve an energy savings of 14% by 2014 for industry. Specific measures include variable speed drives, efficient motors, compressed air management, efficient lighting, heating, ventilation and cooling and thermal savings (more efficient use and production of heat). Full document available in pdf: South-Africa-Energy-efficiency-strategy-for-industry-2005

Air quality act (No.39 of 2004)

This Act mandates that norms, standards, mechanisms, systems and procedures be issued to improve air quality. It establishes the national framework within which these standards will be created, giving 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 noncompliance and establish “funding arrangements”. Full document available in pdf: South-Africa-air-quality-act-2004

Integrated Energy Plan – IEP (2003)

The Integrated Energy Plan outlines the direction and steps to be taken by South Africa to meet 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 four different scenarios. The plan advocates diversification of energy sources, including renewables, as well as fuel switching to improve energy efficiency.


Biofuels Industrial Strategy of the Republic of South Africa (2007)

It proposes the adoption of a 5 year pilot program to achieve a 2% penetration level of biofuels in the national liquid fuel supply. It further proposes the utilization 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.

Joint 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 road map 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 Africa’s National Climate Change Response White Paper (2011) provides the first comprehensive outline of the government’s responsibilities on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

A national process to scope long-term adaptation scenarios began in 2013, when the National Department of Environmental Affairs commissioned the Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) project. The goal of the project is to better understand socio-economic and climatic risk to inform planning and practice on climate change. LTAS aims 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.


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 have 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, 1996 (Act 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 minimization. In terms of legal changes this will entail national government drafting legislation requiring the prevention and minimization of waste. The White Paper, in turn, gave rise to the formulation of a National Waste Management Strategy and Action Plans, a collaborative effort between DEAT and DWAF with Danish financial and technical assistance and input by a great many interested and affected parties.

A few of the many separate acts impacting on waste management are:

• The National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act, 2014 ( Act No. 26 of 2014). Full document available in pdf: South-Africa-waste-amendment-act-n26-2014

• The National Environmental Management Laws Amendment Act, 2014 (Act No.25 of 2014)

• The National Environmental Management Act, 1998 (Act 107 of 1998)

• The National Water Act, 1998 (Act 36 of 1998)

• The Hazardous Substances Act, 1973 (Act 15 of 1973)

• The Health Act, 1977 (Act 63 of 1977)

• The Nuclear Energy Act, 1993 (Act 131 of 1993)

International Policy

General features

• Party to the UNFCCC (Annex II)

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

Date of signature: X
Date of ratification: 31 July 2002;
Date of entry into force: 16 February 2005.

• Signatory of the Copenhagen Accord

• Post 2020 action:
Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) submitted in advance of the COP21 (Paris Agreement), in 2015. Main targets:

– to peak (by 2020), plateau and decline (PPD) GHG emissions trajectory
– to foster adaptation through a National Adaptation Plan, adaptation programmes and proving fund for adaptation actions

• India-Brazil-South Africa Declaration on Clean Energy (IBSA) which is a trilateral development initiative, began in 2003, to promote South-South initiatives on development, trade/investment, information exchange and cooperation in areas including agriculture, energy, health, and climate change.

To meet its responsibility responding to the impacts of climate change, and to contribute to the international effort to mitigate climate change, the government of South Africa, in consultation with business, labour and civil society, has drafted the National Climate Change Response White Paper which is described in the National Policy section.

South Africa ratified the UNFCCC in 1997, at which stage it became binding. This means that South Africa is obliged to adhere to all the obligations imposed on it in terms of being a Party to the Convention. It also means that South Africa can now benefit from provisions in the Convention, for instance by accessing international funds dedicated to mitigating climate change. South Africa is classified as a developing country in terms of the Convention and is not obliged to adhere to the more demanding commitments placed on developed countries.

However, related South African policies such as the policy on Integrated Pollution and Waste Management, place an emphasis on cleaner technology and production, and a shift to sustainable development. This accordingly supports a proactive approach in formulating a climate change policy including early mitigation action, adaptation plans and improvement of knowledge may have some advantages. Furthermore, South Africa acceded to the Kyoto Protocol in 2002. South Africa is classified as a developing country in terms of the Convention and was not obliged to adhere to the more demanding commitments placed on developed countries to the Convention.

Negotiating position

Under the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, South Africa is committed to contributing its fair share to global GHG mitigation efforts. Accordingly, South Africa has committed itself to an emissions trajectory that peaks at 34% below a “Business as Usual” trajectory in 2020 and 40% in 2025, remains stable for around a decade, and declines thereafter in absolute terms. South Africa also believes that global greenhouse gas reduction efforts must work in tandem with a pro-poor adaptation agenda. 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: the implementation of measures aimed at reducing the country’s contribution to global climate change while being mindful of our own unique state of development and vulnerability and our capability to act. This concept refers to the evidence that developing countries have contributed least to greenhouse gas 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 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 minimizing further pollution, environmental damage or adverse health effects must be paid for by those responsible for harming the environment;

• A people-centered approach: the prioritization of climate change mitigation and adaptation actions that 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 recognized;

• Informed participation: the enhancement of the understanding of the science of climate change, information streams and technology to ensure citizen participation and action at all levels. 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: meeting the fundamental human needs of the people by, in part, managing our limited ecological resources responsibly for current and future generations.

South Africa and its key allies in Africa, the G77 (a lobbying group that represents 133 developing countries) and China and the BASIC countries (South Africa, India, China and Brazil) appeal for an inclusive, fair and effective climate change deal, which is favourable to both developed and developing countries.

South Africa is committed to further develop unity of the African Group and a Common African Position in the multilateral climate change negotiations. In view of the fact that Africa is the continent most affected by Climate Change, it is important that Africa continues to speak with one voice. The country’s government seeks quantified and legally binding emission reduction targets for developed countries that address their historical responsibilities to climate change.
Furthermore, South Africa holds developed countries to their commitment to support developing countries with financial and technology capacity-building support to deal with climate change. South Africa and its allies call on developed nations who pledged $30 billion of fast-track funding for developing countries through 2012 and committed to raise $100 billion annually by 2020 at COP 15 in Copenhagen to honour their commitments.