Taking Action on Climate Change: Long Term Mitigation Scenarios for South Africa

Taking Action on Climate Change: Long Term Mitigation Scenarios for South Africa

by Harald Winkler

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781919895734
Publisher: University of Cape Town Press
Publication date: 11/01/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Harald Winkler is an internationally renowned expert on climate change and Associate Professor at the Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is the lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III for the Fourth Member of the South African delegation to the negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He is also the author of Cleaner Energy, Cooler Climate (HSRC Press, 2008).

Read an Excerpt

Taking Action on Climate Change

Long Term Mitigation Scenarios for South Africa

By Harald Winkler, David Merrington, Jacques Nel Drag and Drop

Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd

Copyright © 2010 UCT Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-919895-73-4



Climate change is one of the greatest threats to our planet and to our people. South Africa is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. At the same time, South Africa emits large quantities of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are causing climate change. In fact, this country is one of the highest emitters per capita per GDP in the world. South Africa is both a contributor to the problem and its victim.

This book outlines a unique process, the Long Term Mitigation Scenarios (LTMS) for South Africa, which was undertaken to address the challenge of reducing GHG emissions. It outlines a blend of research and process that built on South Africa's distinctive post-1994 democratic culture of consultation. The LTMS brought together business, labour, NGOs and government to remarkable levels of consensus around a set of evidence-based scenarios for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Why a Long Term Mitigation Scenario process?

South Africa is an active participant in the international process of combating climate change and regulating the emissions of greenhouse gases. It is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change as well as the Kyoto Protocol. South Africa takes the issue of climate change very seriously and has shown leadership in the UN negotiations. In the negotiations our actions must speak as loudly as our words: we need to show leadership by example. This we can do by preparing a course of action for our country.

The link between our own emissions and climate change impacts is indirect. Compared to our own emissions, the emissions of larger economies are far more significant to the climate change impacts that South Africa will suffer. However, South Africa will not be able to influence the emissions reduction efforts of those countries without a reduction plan of its own which is respected as appropriate and real. Yet there is an indirect but very powerful connection — if we do not act, other countries are less likely to act and ultimately the negative impacts will affect everyone.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, at least until 2012, South Africa, together with other developing countries, has no binding greenhouse gas mitigation obligations. However, this is likely to change some time after 2012, and it means that at some point South Africa will be required to start cutting its emissions. South Africa is in fact already formulating plans to reduce GHG emissions.

The LTMS process, both in facilitated stakeholder dialogue and rigorous research, was South Africa's approach to preparing for this formidable challenge. Before we consider the findings of the LTMS in the rest of this book, I would like to tell the story of the process briefly.

The story of LTMS

The need for long term mitigation scenarios was identified at the first consultative conference on climate change in 2005. The conference concluded that a transparent, participatory and scientifically-informed policy development process was needed. Government ministers in March 2006 launched such the LTMS process, which concluded with outcomes agreed by a Cabinet lekgotla in July 2008.

The process had objectives at both national and international level:

• Nationally, to develop robust and broadly supported scenarios to lay the basis for long term climate policy.

• Internationally, to provide South African negotiators with well-founded positions for the negotiations on the future of the climate regime after 2012.

The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) was mandated by Cabinet to carry out the LTMS, which in turn asked the Energy Research Centre (ERC) to project manage the process, with the mediation firm Tokiso providing independent facilitation.

The technical work on the LTMS stood on two legs — a facilitated stakeholder process and best-available information. What made LTMS unique in the field of mitigation was that research fed into a facilitated stakeholder process, producing evidence-based scenarios. Central to the process was the Scenario Building Team (SBT), bringing together strategic thinkers from key sectors across government, business and civil society. The SBT met six times formally — in addition to many smaller meetings — from August 2006 to October 2007. Members of the SBT participated in their individual capacities, but brought their strategic understanding of their sectors to the table. The process is described more fully in a separate report (Raubenheimer 2007).

What gave the LTMS process rigour and a foundation in the best available scientific information were the four research teams: energy, led by ERC's modelling group (Hughes et al. 2007); non-energy emissions in waste, agriculture and forestry, led by the CSIR (Taviv et al. 2007); industrial process emissions, by Airshed and ERC (Kornelius et al. 2007); analysis of economy-wide impacts (Kearney 2008); and work on climate change impacts and adaptation, with a diverse team led by the SA National Biodiversity Institute (Midgley et al. 2007).

The research teams gathered large amounts of data to conduct energy modelling, analysis of non-energy emissions, macro-economic modelling and assessments of vulnerability and adaptation. Not every data point used or assumption made can be reported in the confines of this book. Many more are reported in the LTMS Technical Report (Winkler 2007) and its Appendix (ERC 2007a), as well as the CD-Rom accompanying this book. The research was central to defining scenarios that were more than conceptual, but arrived at projections based on the best available science. Conceptually, the gap between where emissions might go if nothing was done, or Growth without Constraints (GWC) and where they need to go as Required by Science (RBS) is illustrated in Figure 1.1. The top and bottom scenarios (worst-case and best-case) create an envelope. The top scenario shows a prediction of our emissions path if South Africa adopted a growth strategy without any carbon constraint (GWC). The bottom scenario, (RBS), shows the emissions path required for South Africa to contribute to stabilising the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (the objective of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC). Within this envelope, the focus of analysis was on action scenarios — originally called Can Do and Could Do. The SBT defined a series of possible mitigation actions which were then modelled by the research teams. In the international context, these would be nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs). In this way, Figure 1.1 provided a conceptual scenario framework which was filled in more accurately through research.

The first major research was conducted for a meeting in May 2007 and brought the first shock to the Scenario Building Team (SBT) — that 'The Gap' between the emissions created by the scenario called Growth without Constraints (GWC) and that called Required by Science (RBS) was enormous. The gap was three times the size of emissions in 2003, the base year (see Chapter 3 for details).

The shock had the effect of turning the RBS scenario into the effective goal — and all other scenarios into strategic options. When the Scenario Building Team realised that the Start Now set of mitigation options (wedges) did not close the gap even halfway, it requested further modelling of more ambitious wedges and strategic options. (The wedges are so named after the roughly wedge-shaped graphs of emission reductions.)

At this stage of the LTMS story, it is worth pausing and considering what is meant by 'scenarios'. The scenario planning approach for the LTMS process (see Raubenheimer 2007) is different from classical scenario planning approaches (Kahane 2000; Shell 2001; Van der Heijden 1996). The classical approach is to define scenarios as different stories about how the external world might evolve, and to end the process at that point. Thereafter the point is for policy-makers to define a strategy that is robust to all possible futures. The LTMS took a data-based approach to scenario development, drawing both on process and research.

The research teams were critical in providing the best available scientific information. In modelling future emissions and calculating costs, it was important for the credibility of the process that the information be as accurate as possible. While the process was essentially creative (the paths constructed could be as fanciful, or as aggressive, as we wanted, without being realistic), the results are conservative (based on good data and thus reliable for decision-making). This creative/conservative approach provided a firm basis for decision-making on a strategic direction that could be momentous for South Africa.

In short, with the support of the research teams, the SBT was able to develop evidence-based scenarios. The final meeting of the SBT, in October 2007, was remarkable in that participants from a wide diversity of backgrounds, acknowledging their differing views on specific issues, were able to sign off on a single set of documents. In the style of the IPCC, the SBT approved the Scenario Document (SBT 2007) page by page and also approved the Technical Summary (ERC 2007b), accepting the Technical Report (Winkler 2007), its Appendix (ERC 2007a) and the multiple underlying inputs, as cited above, from the research teams as representing a solid basis for decisionmaking. The following year, further high-level consultations were conducted by DEAT to prepare for a presentation of the LTMS results to Cabinet.

In July 2008, Cabinet agreed on an ambitious plan, driven by the aim of limiting temperature increase to 2°C above pre-industrial levels and doing a fair share in the international context.

Taking a long term view, the goal is to make a transition to a low-carbon economy, presenting this as the best option for job creation and development in a carbon-constrained future. The broader analysis of socio-economic implications of the mitigation options focused on the impact on GDP, employment and poverty — thereby ensuring that the country could choose at least some NAMAs that are also sustainable development policies and measures (SD-PAMs see RSA (2006) and Winkler et al (2002)). Cabinet stated clearly that emissions need to peak (at the latest by 2020–25), then plateau for a decade or so, and then decline. This strategic direction needs to be given more immediate effect by setting more ambitious domestic targets for energy efficiency, renewable energy and transport. Increasingly, mandatory rather than voluntary action is needed.

At the 2009 Climate Change Summit, the LTMS results were fed into a formal policy development process. The South African government as a whole has indicated that it seeks long term change, making a major transition from an energy-intensive to a low-carbon economy. Greater investment in long term research and development will be crucial on the road to a low-carbon society. The Summit statement reconfirmed that the process will culminate in the introduction of legislative, regulatory and fiscal packages to give effect to the strategic direction and policy by 2012' (Climate Summit 2009).

At the international level, the LTMS process made its contribution to the multilateral climate negotiations. As a developing country, South Africa was able, based on the LTMS, to make a fair and meaningful contribution to solving the challenge of global climate change. Acknowledging the aim of limiting temperature increase to 2°C was a major step for a developing country and demonstrates bold leadership. It is also fully consistent with the findings of the IPCC, which found that absolute reductions will be required of developed countries and deviations below baseline from developing countries. South Africa signalled that it is serious about negotiating on climate change. It can do so on the basis of having done its homework at the national level.

Clearly, South Africa expects all developed countries to respond with leadership, taking on legally binding, absolute reductions in their emissions. Only by all agreeing to their respective responsibilities will it be possible to achieve a long term goal, which the planet so urgently needs.

Reasons for action and concern

The reason why the planet needs action urgently is the impact of climate change. The focus of the LTMS, as the name says, is on mitigation — the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But the reason for concern is the negative impacts of unmitigated climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) provided the most recent and comprehensive estimate of the likelihood that human activities are causing currently observed temperature and climate change. Key conclusions by hundreds of the world's leading climate scientists were that:

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level. (IPCC 2007c)

And that:

Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. (IPCC 2007c)

Predicting the future is always an uncertain matter. But the IPCC assessment spent extensive effort in bounding the uncertainty. For the above statement, the level of certainty translates to a more than 90% probability (a 9 out of 10 chance) that human activities are responsible for the global warming observed since the 1950s. That is why the IPCC concluded that the evidence for a rise in global temperature is 'unequivocal'.

Climate change is very likely (>90%) driven by increased greenhouse gas concentrations caused by human activities. This finding itself provides some level of support for a policy response, but the urgency of the response needed is better judged on what the projected warming is likely to be, given a range of societal choices regarding fossil fuel use and land cover change, and given the costs of action — and those of inaction. These projections depend on the estimate of climate sensitivity, which is the climate response to a given rise in atmospheric CO2 level. However, the climate sensitivity and especially its upper limit remains quite poorly defined — this means that a climate response to CO2 increase that is much larger than the estimated median response cannot yet be excluded. A truly risk-averse strategy in response to potential climate change impacts should therefore consider fully the impacts of higher climate sensitivities, especially because certain key feedbacks to climate from the biosphere are not yet incorporated in climate models. But we find that these are lacking in the literature, and the published material that does exist contains what may be conservative estimates of impacts.

The evidence for human-induced climate change is clear and unambiguous: changes are already occurring, are generally consistent with model projections, and are likely to continue to occur for many decades to come. The global projections for a range of assumptions of climate sensitivity and societal development scenarios (excluding targeted mitigation responses) are for a rise of between 1.2°C and 5.8°C in global temperature by 2100. While the range of climate change projected is clearly uncertain even at the global level, and the potential impacts even more uncertain, it is possible to provide a careful assessment of sensitivities, vulnerabilities and risk associated with climate change at national and sub-national levels. It is possible to bound the uncertainties. It is also possible to explore potential adaptation options and estimate their possible costs in relation to the costs of inaction, though this has seldom been done comprehensively.

Modelling studies project a range of impacts in South Africa, and some of them are alarming and of immediate societal relevance, even given a business-as-usual global emissions scenario. Some of these impacts require careful consideration and risk assessment — for example, a change in available water supply in South Africa would have major implications for most sectors of the economy, but especially for urban and agricultural demands. A state-of-the-art assessment of what we know about climate impacts was one of the input reports for the LTMS (Midgley et al. 2007).

In addition, the immediate health impacts of extreme climatic events on rural livelihoods, in particular, are well established and documented. Production and income activities are likely to be significantly affected by climate change and increased climate variability by ~2050 at least, particularly in rural areas. Similarly, in urban environments, a higher risk of frequent flooding in some cases and drought-induced water shortages in other areas will be the result of increased climate variability. A range of risks for natural ecosystems and associated economic sectors, such as nature-based tourism and rural livelihoods, has been identified. These include the risk of endemic species extinctions in biodiversity hotspots, increased frequency of natural fires, and disruption to ecosystems via species geographic range shifts and the enhanced threat of alien invasive organisms.


Excerpted from Taking Action on Climate Change by Harald Winkler, David Merrington, Jacques Nel Drag and Drop. Copyright © 2010 UCT Press. Excerpted by permission of Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


List of tables,
List of figures,
Acronyms, abbreviations and units,
Chapter One: Introduction,
Chapter Two: Developing a model of GHG emissions,
Chapter Three: The Gap: Where emissions are going and need to go,
Chapter Four: Taking action on mitigation,
Chapter Five: Emission reductions and costs in summary,
Chapter Six: Strategic options for South Africa,
Chapter Seven: Sensitivity analysis,
Chapter Eight: Conclusion: The challenge ahead,

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