South Africa to call on rich nations to do more at COP26

FILE PHOTO: Steam rises at sunrise from the Lethabo Power Station, a coal-fired power station owned by state power utility ESKOM near Sasolburg
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By Tim Cocks

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -South Africa will tell rich countries at climate talks next week to honour promises to help poorer nations go green and massively boost available funds, the environment minister said on Friday, while announcing talks to help end its own reliance on coal.

Addressing journalists on the position of Africa's most industrialised economy at the COP26 talks in Glasgow from Oct. 31, Barbara Creecy said discussions with the global Climate Investment Funds (CIF) aimed for a deal that could release up to $500 million to fund its shift away from coal-fired power.

"We see the decision by the CIF as a small, but important first step towards laying the foundation for ... our just transition," she said.

South Africa produces more than three quarters of its electricity - and more than a quarter of its liquid fuels for transport - from coal, making it the world's 12th largest greenhouse gas emitter and fourth most carbon-intensive economy.

"Our country goes to Glasgow with a clear mandate to negotiate for ... developing countries, to avoid the worst impacts of climate change on our people," Creecy said.

"COP26 must re-establish trust between developing and developed nations, by ensuring its financial commitments are honoured," she said, adding that a promise to provide $100 billion a year would need to increase to $750 billion a year after 2025.

The CIF deal is a drop in the ocean compared with the $27 billion South Africa says it needs to transition from coal, a move authorities say threatens tens of thousands of jobs along the coal supply chain, but Creecy hoped it would herald bigger commitments.

"We are not expecting that anybody's going to be there with their chequebooks. We're not naive," she said. "But we have had indications that there is appetite for South Africa's transition."

Heavily indebted state power company Eskom is pitching for funds to install solar and wind capacity and upgrade its grid, while the government is also seeking financial support to help coal-mining communities adapt and retrain.

"The wellbeing of workers and communities in the transition is an absolute non-negotiable," Creecy said. "Vulnerable workers and communities ... who bear no responsibility for the historical accumulation of carbon emissions, must be protected."

Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter told an energy conference on Friday he had held "fruitful discussions" with visiting Western climate envoys around the end of last month.

(Editing by Mark Potter and Nick Macfie)

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