As one of the highest emitters of greenhouse gases in the world, South Africa is committed to implement an effective national climate change response. Central to the national approach is an emphasis on low emissions development (LED) to reduce South Africa’s substantial greenhouse gas emissions in a sustainable, equitable, and just manner. This has required institutional change at multiple levels and sectors, including addressing key capacity shortcomings and coordinating with a diverse set of actors who contribute to LED project development.
South African municipalities are working to understand the operational implications of South Africa’s 2018 Climate Change Bill and how to translate the national Department of Environmental Affairs recommendations into action. They face challenges in moving LED projects through the project development pipeline. Financing is also a challenge, as South African investors have a limited understanding of LED technology and the legal and regulatory framework surrounding green investment and therefore perceive such investments as risky. Addressing these challenges requires translating LED concepts into projects, proving success and replicability, and ultimately aiming to scale up.
The USAID South Africa Low Emissions Development (SA-LED) Program (2015-2020) has been working to address these challenges. By providing technical assistance, capacity building, financial advisory services, and support in sourcing external finance, SA-LED aims to help the Government of South Africa in advancing LED projects through the project development cycle. Specifically, the Program has worked in high priority sectors: waste management, transport, renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy demand management, water conservation, and sustainable agriculture. Through increasing the municipalities’ knowledge surrounding climate change, its effects, and possible mitigation measures, SA-LED has helped position municipalities to respond to the mandates of South Africa’s Climate Change Bill, including preparing and implementing climate change response implementation plans.
Some notable successes of the Program include:
- A projected reduction of 600,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions will be mitigated resulting from SA-LED technical assistance across a variety of sectors. Initiatives include:
- Support to municipalities in developing public-private partnerships to finance and procure clean energy, such as solar photovoltaic panels and mini-hydropower generation installations
- Support for energy efficiency audits of municipal buildings and wastewater treatment plants
- Scaling up the use of biogas digesters at schools to generate energy for school kitchens and contribute to food gardens
- Over $200 million in support of LED initiatives leveraged through technical assistance
- Development of climate change mitigation strategies and implementation plans—such as Polokwane’s Green Goal Energy Strategy and the Mpumalanga Climate Change Strategy—to assist municipalities in implementing the National Climate Change Bill
- Training of over 705 municipal officials on LED concepts and applications, including on the use of the Clean Energy Reduction (CLEER) tool and how to implement the SANS 10400-XA protocol, which are regulations for energy efficiency in buildings in South Africa
To promote the benefits of LED and the use of green energy and to demonstrate how municipalities and organizations can implement and finance LED projects, SA-LED has developed and standardized various resources and tools, which can be found on the SA-LED project mini-site.
Katie Capp is a project manager with Chemonics International. She is currently based with the program in Pretoria, South Africa, where she is supporting SA-LED’s communications and outreach.