What is the private sector doing to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis?


What role does the private sector play in the fight against climate change? This is one of the key issues addressed at COP26 as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, currently underway in Glasgow. COP26 brings together heads of state and government, civil society organizations, scientists and businesses from around the world to continue ongoing discussions on climate change mitigation. This year, special attention will be paid to the progress made in the implementation of the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 at the COP21 in Paris.

The Paris Agreement requires governments to set short-term goals for 2030 and long-term goals for 2050 to tackle climate change. In addition, developed countries have pledged to help vulnerable countries achieve their goals by providing financial assistance to the tune of $ 100 billion per year, alongside technical assistance.

For a more comprehensive overview, the Paris Agreement should be read with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in mind. The goal of the 17 SDGs is to sustainably reduce poverty and hunger by 2030, with SDG 13 listed as Climate Action under the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement recognizes that all parties to the agreement must play their part in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions in order to minimize global warming, and to this end, developing countries should also help to maintain global temperatures below 1.5 ° C or 2 ° C. above pre-industrial levels. Sadly, reports indicate that global warming reached 1.2 ° C in 2020, and planned financial assistance to vulnerable countries, partly derailed by the pandemic, has yet to be reached.

To meet the short-term goals of the Paris Agreement, countries must submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) underscoring their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For developing countries, NDCs are based on equity, with commonly adopted measures including phasing out fossil fuels, switching to renewable energy sources and reducing deforestation.

While Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions are much lower in the global context, the continent is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its lack of financial, human and technical resources, including its heavy reliance on weather sensitive activities such as agriculture and fishing. .

South Africa, a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, hosted COP17 in 2011. Since then, there has been increased awareness of climate change. However, the country’s dependence on coal is not waning, with South Africa ranked 12th largest source of greenhouse gases in the world, and Eskom, the country’s national energy supplier, has recently reported as the world’s worst sulfur dioxide emitter.

South Africa updated its 2015 NDCs, prioritizing the transformation of the electricity sector, followed by the transport sector and other critical sectors. However, we must keep in mind that South Africa is a developing country with some of the highest levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality in the world. This triple scourge requires coherent economic growth, massive funding and, above all, lasting partnerships with businesses and civil society organizations.

In migrating from coal, helping communities in transition that depend on mines for their livelihoods must be a priority. Although the renewable energy market generates green jobs, these vulnerable communities should not be left behind. To successfully implement the NDCs over the next 10 years, South Africa will need an investment program of around $ 64 billion.

However, with sluggish economic growth exacerbated by Covid-19 and the unrest of July 2021 costing the country an estimated $ 1.7 billion, $ 64 billion is a strict, though necessary, budget requirement. As a result, the ambitions of the country’s NDCs are based on the expectation that developed countries will provide the promised financial and technical support.

The government should not lead the NDCs only with civil society. The private sector, especially large corporations, cannot be an island of prosperity in an ocean of poverty and destruction, and together with renewable energy providers, must provide solutions because, if poorly managed, the transition towards a low-carbon economy can exacerbate existing structural inequalities.

What is the role of Vodacom?

In 2020, the Vodafone Group, which is a UK-based global company and majority shareholder of Vodacom Group (Vodacom), pledged to reduce its global carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2040. Its targets carbon reductions for 2030 were approved by the Science Targets initiative in line with the Paris Agreement targets. The plan is to eliminate all carbon emissions from its own operations by 2030, including electricity purchased and used (Scope 1 and 2); and eliminate emissions from its entire value chain (Scope 3) by 2040. By July 2021, most of Vodafone’s markets had already switched to 100% renewable energy – a clear launching pad for the net zero goals 2030 and 2040.

Energy security is a huge challenge for Vodacom in all of its African markets. The company is still heavily dependent on the supply of coal-based electricity, especially in its largest market: South Africa. To combat both energy insecurity and the greening of operations, Vodacom has also committed to halving its environmental footprint by 2025.

Vodacom has developed a roadmap to achieve this 2025 goal, underpinned by a four-pronged approach. This approach is linked to long-term incentives for managers and monitored by the social and ethics committee of the board of directors within the framework of the group’s environmental, social and governance standards. Two recently appointed energy experts implement this energy approach as follows:

  • Increase the energy efficiency of mobile base stations thanks to 4IR technology,
  • Autogenerated renewable energies for office buildings and data centers,
  • Accelerate the pace of renewable energy adoption through more power purchase agreements with credible and accredited independent power producers, and
  • Adopt local renewable energy certificates as a last resort and a small percentage of our energy mix.

Vodacom’s environmental, social and governance initiatives cannot exist in a vacuum – they are starting to feed into the government’s 2030 Paris Agreement NDCs, as well as the SDGs. The company is eagerly awaiting the Glasgow-based COP26 and its results, to help accelerate the country’s climate change by 2050.

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