/ 21 October 2021

Top greenhouse gas emitter South Africa earns kudos for new protection measures

Emissions from the Kendal power station have affected at least 124?000 people. Samantha Reinders, M&G
between 2010 and 2019, the continent moved from being a net carbon sink — anything that absorbs more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases — to a net source.

South Africa has been lauded for its revised climate change measures adopted by the cabinet, which saw it top the list of the world’s top 20 greenhouse gas emitters that have taken action to protect people’s health

The new nationally determined contributions (NDC) plans were approved by the cabinet in September. NDCs are country commitments to deliver the goal of the Paris Agreement on climate change, limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C, and preferably to 1.5°C.

Under the Paris Agreement, all parties are required to deposit NDCs every five years. South Africa deposited its first NDCs with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in October 2015, committing to keep national greenhouse gas emissions within a range from 398 to 614 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for 2025 and 2030.

Cabinet last month approved the revised NDC climate change mitigation target range for 2025 to 398 to 510 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, and 350 to 420 metric tons  for 2030.

In the third edition of the Healthy NDCs Scorecard, produced by the Global Climate Health Alliance, which featured 120 countries, South Africa received a score of 12 out of 15 NDCs were assessed based on their attention to health effects, health in adaptation measures, health co-benefits, economics and finance.

Cambodia, Moldova and Cabo Verde are the joint leaders for considering health in five categories: they all scored 14 out of 15. Myanmar and Costa Rica both received 13 points. 

Although this rating has been cheered, Rico Euripidou, the environmental health campaigner at GroundWork, told the Mail & Guardian that implementing climate  measures remained a challenge for South Africa.

“Like many systems in South Africa, we have great ideas but poor implementation. In this case, you could argue that the focus on the monitoring systems, instead of the actual emissions, might be a little misleading,” Euripidou said.
He said wider health-protective actions were essential, including the monitoring and surveillance of health risks and effects, preparedness measures, and education, training and capacity-building.