/ 9 December 2022

Germany and SA to work together in implementing just transition projects

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German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Germany and South Africa have agreed that, because of their similar fossil fuel use challenges, they would benefit from a relationship based on cooperation and mutual learning.

During a high-level round-table discussion on Just Energy Transition and Climate Action, German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said Germany was setting up climate and energy partnerships around the world, including in Africa, to support its decarbonisation plans, which included the large-scale importation of green hydrogen.

The two parties discussed issues of development cooperation, including climate change, energy, training and skills development.

Habeck encouraged South Africa to let go of fossil fuels to gain an advantage in seeking to secure green investment, for more renewable resources.

Germany’s energy challenge

He added that the two countries could assist each other to overcome the challenges of power shortages and embrace renewables. This is despite Germany’s failure to let go of fossil fuels. Reports suggest that coal-fired power plants across Germany were being given new life after Russia cut gas supplies. This opens up questions on Germany’s motives for funding a just transition when it is pursuing energy from fossil fuels.

Habeck insisted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had underlined the risks of being too dependent on both a single country and on fossil fuels for energy.

He added that the war had encouraged Germany to speed up its strategy to phase out its use of oil, gas and coal, despite world pressures to secure them for use in the short term.

Germany was pursuing its own energy transition — referred to as “energiewende”. In a statement, he said Germany had been facing difficulties similar to those in South Africa which could form the basis for enhanced cooperation and mutual learning. The European nation is planning to be off coal by 2030, according to it’s cabinet.

Jochen Flasbarth, state secretary in the federal ministry for economic cooperation and development added that South Africa’s decision to embark on a path of green growth and to tackle the problems of energy supply, unemployment and inequality had their full support. 

“We are engaged as partners offering support to make this just energy transition a reality and to deliver tangible results for those left out for too long.”

Mutually beneficial relationship

Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, speaking at the fourth German-African Business Summit in Sandton on Wednesday, said Africa was seeking to build mutually beneficial partnerships to bolster its manufacturing output in “greener and more sustainable ways”.

Patel added that, while Africa was home to 17% of the world’s population, it made up only 3% of global GDP and 2% of global manufacturing.

To attract investment, Patel said African countries needed to promote political stability, the rule of law and intra-African trade and investment, while developing skills and modern infrastructure, including reliable energy supplies.

He also called for greater support from German investors in Africa, including to promote higher levels of manufacturing and minerals value addition.

“While this is vital for Africa, it is an opportunity for Germany too.

“First, this will provide opportunities for German businesses to invest in an expanding African manufacturing sector and to strengthen your own local manufacturing capabilities, and many German companies are already doing that.

“This is particularly important given the experience of supply-chain disruptions and vulnerabilities during the pandemic and as a result of geopolitical tensions,” Patel said.

Habeck added that the South African context was unique because, “I believe the existing and growing supply gap of electricity can be closed with renewable energy sources much faster and cheaper. That way, South Africa can be a global frontrunner in modernising its electricity system.”

Germany’s pledge

Last month, Germany extended R180 million to South Africa’s renewable programmes to shift from coal to clean energy as part of the $8.5 billion pledged at COP26, along with France, the UK, US and EU.

The discussions heard that part of the grant funding by German development bank KfW would be used to build a wind turbine on the Cape Peninsula University of Technology campus for the training of technicians.

In September, Eskom, the South African Renewable Energy Technology Centre and the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet signed a partnership agreement for the development of the Komati Training Facility.

Habeck said the approach being pursued by the German government was premised on creating new markets and industrial opportunities that included climate action.

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said that COP27 had emphasised the need for increased momentum to reform the “multilateral development banks and international financial institutions” and called on the shareholders of these institutions to “take decisive action to scale up climate finance in 2023 and make their institutional arrangements fit for purpose”.

As a result of the negotiations, commitments for German-South Africa mutual cooperation were made for renewable energy and energy efficiency; sustainable urban development; technical and vocational education and training; trade; sustainable infrastructure and biodiversity.