EU’s COP26 programme to support South Africa’s coal phase-out

President von der Leyen. Credit: European Commission

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has stated that the European Union will initiate a project at COP26 to help South Africa transition away from coal.

The statement was made by President von der Leyen ahead of two significant global summits, the G20 Summit in Rome this weekend, as well as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow (31 Oct to 12 November).

Von der Leyen unpacked the actions to be undertaken by the Union at COP, one of which will be to support South Africa in its shift to cleaner energy sources in a just and fair way. Together with the US, the UK, Germany, France, the EU will launch the Just Energy Transition Partnership.

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“The idea is that the countries support South Africa to phase out of coal faster, and to go earlier and faster into developing renewables. We are still working on that but I am confident that we are going to launch this new proposal and then this partnership could become a template on how to support just transitions around the globe, with sponsoring countries and countries that have to move on faster in the just transition,” said von der Leyen.

A recent report by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) stated that South African utility Eskom is now the world’s most polluting company. Eskom, alone, now emits more sulfur dioxide than China, the United States (US), and the European Union (EU)’s power sectors.

The emissions are coming from Eskom’s 15 coal-fired power plants at which the utility has failed to install desulphurisation equipment to help reduce emissions over the past years.

The aim of the Glasgow summit is to secure new commitments and deals from countries and polluting sectors to cut emissions sufficiently to keep the 1.5 C target within reach.

U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres has called on all wealthier countries to not only stop burning coal by 2030, but also to support the poorer countries to do so.

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