Activists staged a protest outside the African Energy Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, calling on the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) to scrap plans to fund a new coal-fired power station.
Holding placards that read "New coal = Climate chaos" and "Water is life. Coal kills", the protestors from different organisations said the DBSA had a chance to "truly live up to its mandate" as a development bank and align its lending to South Africa’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gases.
The protestors said DBSA was to fund the new Thabametsi coal power station, one of the country’s two new power stations to be built by the private sector as part of the government’s independent power producers’ programme. The other is Khanyisa.
Ahmed Mokgopo, from the climate change activist group 350Africa.org, said the DBSA had already recognised the opportunity for clean energy.
"However, their inconsistency in funding renewables and fossil fuels at the same time overshadows what could see them as leaders in promoting clean energy development on the continent," Mokgopo said.
He said plans to build more coal power stations in South Africa – which already has one of the highest per capita carbon emissions – was not consistent with the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found that keeping the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5°C would result in significantly lower impacts than breaching the 2°C threshold.
Ahmed said 350Africa.org had held meetings with DBSA over the last six months, trying to persuade the bank not to fund coal projects.
Asked to comment, DBSA replied that "the DBSA has not provided any funding for these projects".
The bank said it had met 350.Org on several occasions and "we have explained that these projects have not been funded by the DBSA".
Funding or not?
However, attorney Nicole Loser from the Centre for Environmental Rights sent News24 the documents from Thabametsi’s application to the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) to generate electricity, and the DBSA is listed as a funder for both Thabametsi and Khanysia coal plants.
"Those documents are in the public domain, in the bid support letters. If DBSA is saying now that they are not going to fund them, we would want to see something solid," Loser said.
She said DBSA had written to 350.Org in November to say the funding letter DBSA had given Thabametsi had now expired.
However, the bank did not say this meant it would not fund the coal plant in the future. Instead it said in the letter that DBSA’s "eventual participation" in the coal projects would require approval by the DBSA’s board after the "completion of a satisfactory due diligence".
Robyn Hugo from CER said: "What DBSA has not said is whether they have withdrawn from funding the coal plants."
Intensive carbon emitter
Loser said Thabametsi would be one of the most intensive carbon emitters in the world, while research done by UCT’s Energy Research Centre had found that the power station would cost the country an extra R12.5bn in comparison with a "least-cost" electricity system.
The protest against coal in Cape Town was echoed at the UN climate talks at Cop24 in Poland on Tuesday, when protesters disrupted a meeting where an official from the US Department of Energy said he believed "no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environment sustainability".
In a video published by The Guardian, anti-coal protesters moved into the room, chanting: "Keep it in the ground!"
The video clip records comments by Andrew Light of the World Research Institute, who says the US coal meeting would have no impact on the outcome of the Cop24 talks, adding that it had "an audience of one, and it’s President Trump".
The Global Carbon Report released last week said global carbon emissions had increased last year, with almost all countries contributing to the rise.
China’s emissions were up by 4.7%, the US by 2.5% and India by 6.3%.
Last week the World Bank announced that nine multinational development banks had established a framework to reinforce their commitment to combatting climate change.
However, the statement does not state that the banks will not fund coal projects.