South Africa can influence the battle against climate change, being an active member of the African Union, a vocal member of the G77, and one of the four developing countries poised to become a southern engine of global economic growth.
Its powerful combination of strong international leadership, progressive thinking and forward-looking policies are reflected in its calls for dramatic cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions and for mechanisms to help vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Despite this, South Africa is the 14th highest emitter of CO2 in the world with emissions likely to rise sharply as energy demands increase. Most of its carbon emissions, around 80 percent of its primary energy needs, come from coal. The government plans to re-commission several retired coal power stations, and build more in the coming decade, with the remaining increase in capacity expected to come from new nuclear power plants.
As countless examples around the world show, nuclear power is not clean, cheap or safe. South Africa planned new reactors include the untested Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, which will cost an estimated 14 billion Rand (US$1.58 billion). A move from highly polluting coal energy to expensive, risky nuclear energy is not a viable solution.
It is not too late to stop dangerous climate change. Greenpeace is calling for:
- A peak in global emissions by 2015 and a steady decline thereafter;
- Significant reduction in our dependency on fossil fuels, particularly coal, through the adoption of an energy revolution to move us from a world powered by fossil fuels and nuclear to one running on renewable energy;
- Zero deforestation in the world's intact tropical forests by 2015;
- Ambitious government targets and timelines on energy efficiency in vehicles and appliances.