South Africa’s government is still analysing details of an $8.5 billion financing package offered by wealthy Western nations last year to help the country shift away from coal, environment minister Barbara Creecy said on Tuesday.
Last November, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union pledged the funding during the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
South Africa is the world’s 12th most significant emitter of climate-warming gases and a major coal producer and user.
Pressed by lawmakers over delays in obtaining the funding during a virtual parliamentary briefing, Creecy said South Africa, which has set up a task team to advise President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet on the offer, was still looking at the terms.
“I think that the issue of speed is important, but the issue of the nuances and the quality of the decision is also important,” Creecy said.
“I am not negative about the opportunities that this money presents, but I am realistic that we have to look at it properly, and we shouldn’t rush when looking at it properly. There is a lot of scepticism out there that it’s only loan financing, that it’s going to worsen our sovereign debt situation.”
South Africa’s chief negotiator at COP26, Maesela Kekana, told the same briefing that negotiations were still being held with the Western nations.
Creecy said South Africa was also considering the impact of the shift from coal on unemployment and poverty.
According to the industry body of the Minerals Council, about 93,000 people were employed in South Africa’s coal mines in 2021.
“We’ve got to ensure that by introducing green technology into the economy, we’re not just changing technology, but also dealing with some of the abiding constraints of inequality, unemployment and poverty that confront our economy,” Creecy said.