Are net-zero goals realistic for South Africa?

By Vanessa Mathebula – Quantitative Analyst at Prescient Investment Management

The much-anticipated COP26 is fast approaching. This is the 2021 United Nation’s Climate Change Conference, where each participating country, including South Africa, is expected to set more deliberate and ambitious climate change goals.

With the introduction of the Asset Manager’s Net Zero Agreement, fund managers globally are also now able to join the movement. Interested parties can pledge their commitment to playing an active role in supporting similar climate change goals to those of the respective countries by 2050 or earlier. Globally, there are already great initiatives in place, such as green financing solutions (e.g., green bonds), but, given our many macro-economic challenges, where do we stand as a country? Can we realistically move to the same rhythm as the global players?

Committing to advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement shows our willingness to collaborate and play an active role in achieving climate-related goals. However, we might have bitten more than we can chew, especially given the expectations of upping the ante in the upcoming COP26.

Fossil fuels are still a crucial driver of the SA economy

As a country, we rely on fossil fuels. For instance, coal continues to be the primary energy source as it caters for about 77% of South Africa’s energy needs, according to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. Furthermore, no material changes in this trend are expected in at least the next two decades. Unfortunately, the coal dilemma stretches wider than the obvious coal mining industry.  As per the ripple effect theory, many other industries are, in fact, reliant on fossil fuels. 

Aside from the obvious coal mining and electricity-generating companies, transportation (e.g. Transnet as it transports coal) and financial sectors can also be indirectly linked to the coal industry. This, therefore, means that the majority of South Africa’s productive economy can directly or indirectly be linked to fossil fuels.

Admittedly, there are initiatives in place that are meant to shift the country to ‘greener pastures’. However, the transition to these alternative forms of climate-friendly options is relatively slow.  For instance, PWC’s Net Zero Economy Index shows South Africa is making minimal progress in decoupling emissions from GDP.

The country’s fundamental developmental challenges remain the main culprit. Not only do we lack the necessary infrastructure to enable such a transition, but the cost implications, especially for an overly indebted country like South Africa, coupled with the politics associated with such decisions, are other hurdles that cannot be ignored. We are, therefore, forced to acknowledge our shortcomings as a country and find ways to engage and promote realistic change.

In line with the Net-Zero goals, if asset managers were to restrict exposure to fossil fuel-linked companies and instruments materially, diversification and bottom-line investment performance would be materially affected. For instance, buying South African government bonds would be a questionable exercise as some of the proceeds are channeled towards assisting state-owned entities closely linked to the coal industry – e.g. Eskom. Bank paper would be questionable, too, as the average investor has no insight into the portion of the bank’s lending activities that are linked to the fossil-fuel industry.

This highlights the challenges we face as a country that still relies heavily on fossil fuels. Therefore, we are left with the question of whether we can materially limit exposure to the affected sectors without introducing any major adverse implications to the bottom line? Probably not! At least not any time soon, given the country’s sluggish progress towards introducing greener alternatives. However, this does not imply that we cannot take smaller strides each day towards having an overall positive impact from a sustainability standpoint.

A net positive contributor approach is a good start

One of the ways we can realistically advance towards achieving our sustainability goals, given the challenges we face, is to adopt a net positive contributor approach to overall Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors. Not only does this enable us to factor climate-related factors into decisions in a less restrictive manner, but it also enables us to consider other sustainability factors, such as the social aspect, which is crucial for a country with a history of inequality like South Africa.

For instance, if we consider Eskom through a purely Net-Zero lens, no investor would touch it. However, once we accept that it is currently the primary producer of electricity, and thus supports economic activity countrywide and employs a notable portion of the country’s workforce, the scale would probably tilt to the positive for such a counter, keeping everything else constant. 

At Prescient, we continuously seek to invest in net-positive counters. We assess the overall contribution of a given counter from an ESG risk and opportunity perspective based on our in-house developed ESG risk scoring tool, the Prescient ESG Scorecard. The scorecard is quantitative and free from human biases. The derived scores are based on over 60 metrics and are free from sector and size biases as we also factor sector materiality and adjust certain metrics by the market cap of the given counter. The scorecard output is integrated across investment teams enabling us to play an active role in moving towards sustainability as we tilt our investments towards net positive contributors. Of course, this is nowhere close to where we want to be from an overall sustainability perspective. We, therefore, continue assessing how viable it is for the local market to transition to a comprehensive Net-Zero approach. Until we reach a point where this is possible, we will continue the search for greener alternatives that don’t undermine the economy at the expense of South African society.

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Carbon taxes and the attainment of emissions reductions targets in South Africa – A critical stocktaking of recent analyses and policies

The Working Group I report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), covering recent developments in the physical science of climate change, serves as a stark warning of the environmental dangers humanity faces.

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Climate and Biodiversity Crisis: 16 Critical points for leaders to act on

As the Climate and Biodiversity Crises augment each other, EASAC’s new commentary informs both the UN Glasgow Climate Summit and the Biodiversity Summit in China that there are 16 shared points to note

The recent IPCC report confirms that global warming is speeding up. Meanwhile, the hidden crisis of biodiversity loss continues with the loss of forests to land clearance, exacerbated by the fires. The Commentary’s summary of the European Academies Science Advisory Council’s (EASAC) ten years of scientific analysis covering environmental, energy and biosciences is set against the scary backdrop of an inexorable increase in temperature and humidity expanding in some areas to levels where it is difficult or impossible for humans or the crops and livestock they need to survive. Adding science too recent to have been included in the IPCC Report, Europe’s Science Academies urge governments to treat the Climate and Biodiversity Crises as one, and as equally urgent.

Climate and Biodiversity Crises to be treated as one

“This summer’s rollercoaster of extreme temperatures, dryness, flash floods and wildfires has been bad, but probably far better than what we may see in the future,” explains Prof. Michael Norton, EASAC’s Environment Programme Director. “Biodiversity loss and dangerous climate change potentiate each other in their disastrous consequences. It’s a vicious circle not only leading to extreme weather but also collapsing food systems, and increasing risks of dangerous pathogens, zoonoses and other health impacts.”

The Commentary illustrates the multiple crises interactions: replacing tropical forests with agriculture reduces biodiversity at the same time as releasing stored carbon, reducing carbon uptake in the land and increasing emissions of other greenhouse gases (GHGs). Warming temperatures and associated changes to precipitation reduce agricultural productivity as well as moving species outside their habitable range, in some cases driving them to extinction. Warming and acidifying oceans alongside weakened circulation reduce the oceans’ capacity to absorb and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere while shifting or degrading ecosystems.

Exit from the road to our own destruction

But the scientists also see opportunities: conserving, managing and restoring ecosystems for example can mitigate climate change and enable adaptation to its impacts while also enhancing biodiversity. “These challenges do have solutions but so far both the Climate Change and the Biodiversity Conventions separately have lacked the political will to implement them, or policy-makers have taken easy ways out without properly considering the consequences,” says Norton “The classic example is the failure to properly assess climate impacts of burning trees for electricity before allocating billions in subsidies. The two meetings in autumn need to map an exit from the current road that leads to our own destruction.”

Based on EASAC’s past work, the Commentary includes a list of 16 fields for action where governments should already have done more. They straddle climate change, the role of biomass energy, greenhouse gas emissions from different oil feedstocks, policies towards slashing emissions in transport, buildings and infrastructure, and the interactions between climate change and human health.

Relying on the GDP-based system not going to work

Systemic issues such as the barriers to the transformative changes required to tackle the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis are also addressed. “Relying on the current system to deliver the necessary reductions is not going to work”, says Norton. “The GDP-based economic system in which fossil fuel, food and agricultural interests are driving up CO2 levels, deforestation, land clearing and over-fishing is no longer fit for purpose if atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases must be cut in as short a period as possible.” The scientists make clear that governments need to push the reset button. If humanity wants to stop climate change and preserve the biodiversity that it needs for survival, it must change the economic system to one that rewards and incentivises sustainable choices and behaviour.

Focus on tipping points distracting from seriousness of underlying linear trends

Ever since the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, there has been much focus on tipping points. But according to EASAC, catastrophically disrupting trends are proceeding as gradual incremental changes as well. “The focus on tipping points creates an image of relay points up to which climate change can be seen as ‘safe’. However, not only do different tipping points interact with each other and increase the dangers, but the underlying linear trends such as temperature and humidity are serious in their own right,” Norton explains.

Chance for coordinated, bold and transformative action

“As parents and grand-parents/ we are as terrified as everyone else by what we see coming. But as scientists, we know that there are ways to mitigate the worst and adapt. But only if governments in Europe and worldwide take responsibility and show leadership now”, says Lars Walloe, Chair of EASAC’s Environment Programme.

With the closely related policy agendas of the Climate Summit and the Biodiversity Summit, negotiators have the opportunity to take coordinated, bold and transformative action to deliver a new, more integrated and coherent framework for addressing biodiversity loss and climate change together. The urgency is such that both need to work together now, take advantage of the many potential synergies between climate change and biodiversity policies – such as massive ecosystem restoration – and change humanity’s course towards a sustainable future.


EASAC (2013) Trends in extreme weather events in Europe: implications for national and European Union adaptation strategies
EASAC (2015) Ecosystem services, agriculture and neonicotinoids
EASAC (2016) Greenhouse gas footprints of different oil feedstocks
EASAC (2017a) Multi-functionality and sustainability in the European Union’s forests
EASAC (2017b) Valuing dedicated storage in electricity grids
EASAC (2017c) Opportunities and challenges for research on food and nutrition security and agriculture in Europe
EASAC (2018a) Commentary on forest bioenergy and carbon neutrality
EASAC (2018b) Negative emission technologies: what role in meeting Paris Agreement targets?
EASAC (2018c) Opportunities for soil sustainability in Europe
EASAC (2018d) Extreme weather events in Europe. Preparing for climate change adaptation
EASAC (2019a) Forest bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, and carbon dioxide removal: an update
EASAC (2019b) Decarbonisation of Transport: options and challenges
EASAC (2019c) The imperative of climate action to protect human health in Europe
EASAC (2020a) Hydrogen and synthetic fuels
EASAC (2020b) Towards a sustainable future: transformative change and post-COVID-19 priorities
EASAC (2020c) How can science help to guide the European Union’s green recovery after COVID-19?
EASAC (2021a) Decarbonisation of buildings: for climate, health and jobs
EASAC (2021b) Policy briefs to the Scientific Group of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021
EASAC (2021c) A sea of change: Europe’s future in the Atlantic realm
EASAC and FEAM (2021) Decarbonisation of the health sector

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President Cyril Ramaphosa receives recommendations from the Presidential Climate Commission

Statement on the handing over of the Presidential Climate Commission’s first recommendations regarding South Africa’s draft updated Nationally Determined Contribution

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently received the first set of recommendations from the Presidential Climate Commission. The President established the Commission on 15 December 2020 to advise government on pathways to transition to a low-carbon economy and climate-resilient society. The Commission is comprised of representatives from business, labour, NGOs, the science community and government, and its recommendation are the product of engagement between the social partners.

The Commission’s first set of recommendations deals with South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), which is a statement by the country of its commitment to address climate change, made in terms of the Paris agreement and submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The Paris Agreement was born out the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action developed at COP17 under South Africa’s leadership.

South Africa continues to advocate for a just transition sensitive to the needs of developing countries, especially those on the  African continent. At COP26, South Africa will submit a credible NDC that reflects increased ambition.

The Commission highlighted the risks South Africa faces from a rapidly decarbonising global economy. Many of South Africa’s trading partners have adopted net-zero targets and will be looking to lower their emissions and impose trade barriers on emissions-intensive products.

The Commission also suggested that additional measures to lower emissions should be undertaken, such as decommissioning coal-fired power stations at the end of their commercial life, increasing renewable energy investment and rolling out green transport initiatives. Setting more ambitious emissions targets will lower the transition risk, improve energy security and attract additional international finance.

Commission Deputy Chair Valli Moosa said: “Higher ambition is possible without negatively impacting the economy, and will set the stage for longer-term competitiveness. Also, higher ambition will lead to a net jobs increase.”

However, the Commission pointed out that international support will be needed to accelerate the transition, including for managing the decommissioning process and social adjustment costs in the coal sector.

President Ramaphosa welcomed the report and commended the Commission on producing its first set of recommendations within such a short timeframe.

“The country’s emissions targets are fundamental not only to our transition to a low-carbon economy; they are also critical in influencing the pace and the nature of our country’s transformation. A more ambitious approach to reducing our emissions must be accompanied by greater attention to the work we must do to protect communities, jobs and the broader economy from the effects of climate change,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President will consider the recommendations made by the Commission. These recommendations, together with other submissions received during the public consultation process, will form part of Cabinet’s deliberations as it finalises the updated and revised NDC.

President Ramaphosa encouraged the Commission to continue with its work, which is crucial for successfully steering the country through the climate transition.

The Commission’s report can be downloaded from


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Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment delivers Budget Speech to National Council of Provinces

25 May 2021

Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy outlined a number of initiatives being implemented by the Department in collaboration with the provinces and the district and local municipalities to ensure environmental services reach all sectors of society.

Minister Creecy confirmed the country’s commitment to contributing its fair share to the global climate change effort, highlighting the role the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Committee will play in overseeing co-ordination of necessary policies to meet a long-term net zero emissions target and advise on opportunities presented by the transition to a low-carbon development and the pathways to achieve it.

To achieve this, the Department had supported all district municipalities to develop climate change adaptation strategies through the ‘Let’s Respond Toolkit’. This would ensure climate change is mainstreamed into the Integrated Development Plans, or IDPs, of the 44 district municipalities.  Training on the Coastal Climate Change Vulnerability Index and Decision Support Tool in 3 coastal district Municipalities.

Minister Creecy said it was clear from the latest the State of Environment update, that South Africa’s air quality, particularly in the national priority areas, needs urgent and significant attention.

“Let me reiterate that this is a concurrent function and we will never succeed in improving air quality at community level without the hard work of all spheres of government,” said the Minister.

Air quality monitoring stations presently being operated, maintained and managed by the Department until 2022 will be handed to local governments once there has been capacitation and practical on-the-job training, coordinated with the support of the South African Weather Service and the National Association for Clean Air.

“As part of the Department’s zero tolerance on compliance and enforcement approach, we have taken a tough line with Eskom and Sasol, and issued several Compliance Notices.  In this regard, the department will not be issuing any exemptions to compliance with minimum emission standards, so all facilities will need to comply by 2025,” said the Minister.

A concerted effort was being made to ensure all sectors operating within the Priority Areas meet compliance and enforcement requirements related to air quality and emissions standards. The department would continue to support the development of Environmental Management Inspectorate capacity at the local authority level to deal with matters related to air quality.

The Minister said a drive has been launched to reposition the country’s protected areas for the New Deal for People with Nature.

‘The present state of protected areas in South Africa is marred by serious funding and capacity constraints, which leads to considerable fragmentation, duplication and inefficiency of management arrangements within the protected areas system,” said the Minister.  “In light of this, I have kick-started a process of investigating the rationalisation of protected areas by focusing on, amongst others, the reduction of fragmentation of functional responsibilities and the overlap of functions between different organs of state, improving conservation management and capacity of protected areas management agencies and enhancing cooperative governance in the management of protected areas”. 

Provinces and local government are key role players in this process.

The Biodiversity Economy is expected to create 110 000 new jobs by 2030 and contribute an additional R47 billion to GDP.

Through the National Wildlife Donation and Custodianship Policy Framework, which guides the review and implementation of Provincial Game Donation and Custodianship Policies, 15 000 head of game are expected to have been released as part of the wildlife transformation programme by the 2023/24 book year. 

The department is also supporting emerging game farmers with related infrastructure, such as game fencing, water, game capture and translocation costs to the tune of R810 million over the next three years.

A total of R251 has been committed to the development of the bioprospecting and biotrade programme in the next three years so communities can participate meaningfully in this industry.

Minister Creecy said the Integrated Coastal Management Act has placed an obligation on local government to facilitate access to beaches through public servitudes and made it an offence for anyone to prevent access to beaches.  Because local government has not been able to implement these provisions due to capacity challenges, the department has prioritised implementation with provinces and municipalities, to facilitate access incrementally along South Africa’s coastline. 

Apart from dealing with marine litter, the department supports municipalities to carry out their functions by funding waste management licences for unlicensed landfill sites. This process will enable Municipalities in 7 sites from various Municipalities in the Free State, North West, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape to access funding from various funders to ensure that landfill sites comply with their waste management licences. This will be enhanced by providing training to improve the management of landfill sites.

Furthermore, the DFFE together with Provincial Departments of Environment, will be providing support in implementing projects and programmes in Districts across the country to realise an environment that is not harmful to health and to have the environment protected from the pollution that may arise from waste.  A key Programme in this regard is the Municipal Cleaning and Greening programme that would be implemented in all the municipalities.

The involvement of Local and Provincial Authorities is thus critical if we want to advance aquaculture in order to promote local and rural economic development.  We need to collectively explore local markets for fish and aquaculture products so that local jobs are created within the value chain. 

To access the Minister’s speech, click on:

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THE NEW EQUATION = PwC+progressive strategy

PwC recently unveiled The New Equation, its new landmark global strategy, which responds to fundamental changes in the world, including technological disruption, climate change, fractured geopolitics, and the continuing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The New Equation is based on analyses of global trends and thousands of conversations with clients and stakeholders. It builds on more than a decade of sustained revenue growth and continued investment.

  • US$12-billion investment over the next five years, creating over 100 000 new jobs
  • Initial commitments include new ESG Centres of Excellence, leadership institutes, accelerated deployment of emerging technologies and increased investment to support audit quality
  • Strategy focuses on helping clients build trust and deliver sustained outcomes

The New Equation focuses on two interconnected needs that clients face in the coming years. The first is to build trust, which has never been more important, nor more difficult. Organisations increasingly need to earn trust across a wide range of topics that are important to their stakeholders. Success depends on fundamental shifts in the way executives think, organisational culture, systems and ambition.

The second is to deliver sustained outcomes in an environment where competition and the risk of disruption are more intense than ever and societal expectations have never been greater. Businesses need to change faster and more thoroughly to attract capital, talent and customers. Too often, however, narrowly conceived transformation initiatives do not deliver the outcomes they promise. A new approach is needed.

Bob Moritz, global chairman of PwC said: “The profound changes in the world mean that to succeed, organisations need to create a virtuous circle between earning trust and delivering sustained outcomes. By bringing our unique combination of capabilities together and matching it with serious investment and our commitment to quality, we can help them do that. In doing so, we will help clients unlock value for shareholders, stakeholders and wider society.”

PwC will expand Centres of Excellence for specialists on key ESG topics, including climate risk and supply chain, as well as create a global ESG Academy which will enable all PwC partners and staff to integrate the fundamentals of ESG into their work.

How PwC will help build trust and deliver sustained outcomes

PwC’s multidisciplinary model is the foundation for the strategy, bringing together a passionate, diverse community to help organisations build trust and deliver sustained outcomes. The model enables investment at scale in the combination of capabilities that is essential to delivering quality and impact for clients, stakeholders and society. PwC firms will invest US$12-billion over the next five years, creating over 100 000 net new jobs across PwC, as well as continuing to develop the skills of PwC’s partners and employees.

PwC’s approach to building trust is designed to meet rising expectations of transparency and stakeholder engagement. It combines expertise in audit, tax and compliance activity with an expansion of specialist capabilities including cybersecurity, data privacy, ESG, and AI. It recognises the importance of quality and that reporting and compliance are just one link in a chain that includes organisational culture, executive mindset, aligned standards, certified professionals, stringent controls, tailored technologies, and appropriate governance.

Similarly, delivering sustained outcomes requires an integrated approach. Instead of a traditional technology-driven approach to transformation, PwC’s approach is focused on the outcome that effort seeks to achieve. PwC then mobilises expertise in strategy, digital and cloud services, value creation, people and organisation, tax, ESG, deals, business recovery services, legal and compliance, amongst other areas to deliver the agreed outcomes.

Planned investments include:

  • ESG. PwC will expand Centres of Excellence for specialists on key ESG topics, including climate risk and supply chain, as well as create a global ESG Academy which will enable all PwC partners and staff to integrate the fundamentals of ESG into their work. 1 000 partners from 60 territories across the network have already completed an in-depth six-week programme focused on business issues resulting from critical global trends.
  • Quality. PwC will continue to invest to further enhance quality across its businesses. This will include US$1bn dedicated to accelerate deployment of technology that further automates the implementation of quality frameworks in audit, as well as build the delivery model for the audits of the future, which are expected to require more types of data, assess a broader range of risks and more fully integrate non-financial information. This additional technology investment builds on the ongoing focus on quality, supported by rigorous methodology and training across all lines of service.
  • Leadership Institutes. Today’s leaders need new skills to help lead through and manage uncertainty, build inclusive cultures, and support transformation. New Leadership Institutes will be created to support clients and stakeholders. The first Institute will be based in the United States and will empower more than 10 000 of today and tomorrow’s C-suite leaders, executives, and board members to build trust. Another Leadership Institute will be created in Asia-Pacific and further announcements will be made in the coming months.
  • Technology. PwC will continue its strategy of being human-led and tech-powered. It will continue to rapidly expand its use of cloud, artificial intelligence, technology alliances, virtual reality and other emerging technologies to deliver insight and drive competitive advantage for clients. In addition, PwC is accelerating the deployment of technology products, supporting seamless collaboration and enabling its people to automate processes. These products and automations will transform the client experience and allow new insights and values to emerge.

The New Equation also accelerates PwC’s growth in the Asia Pacific, with US$3-billion of the investment planned for the region, aimed at doubling its business and significantly scaling up capabilities to serve clients.

Bob Moritz continued: “We are mobilising multi-disciplinary teams, powered by technology and drawing on deep specialist expertise. We will continue to evolve our ways of working, and expand our capabilities in the areas that matter most for the future, while remaining steadfast in our commitment to quality: bringing together the unique combinations needed to help clients answer the expectations of their shareholders, stakeholders and society at large.”

Dion Shango, CEO for PwC Africa said: “PwC Africa is excited by the opportunity that The New Equation represents for our clients, employees and other stakeholders. The launch of our new global strategy comes at a time of unprecedented change – it will enable PwC teams to support clients and other stakeholders across the African continent to move toward greater sustainability and more inclusive growth, as well as to drive their digital evolution. The strategy will shape how PwC Africa develops in the coming years as we seek to deliver against our purpose in society – which is to build trust and solve important problems. As part of the strategy, we are making substantial investments to further enhance audit quality and expand our capabilities.”

Commitments in our Africa region

As part of The New Equation, PwC’s Africa region is also announcing plans to meet the specific needs of clients in our market. Here in Africa, PwC will continue focusing on the following, with plans of further commitments to be announced within the next few months:

  • PwC Africa is committed to delivering quality in everything we do, and we are making substantial investments to further enhance quality. We’re committed to driving a strong culture of quality. It’s core to our purpose – to build trust in society and solve important problems. Importantly, it’s also what our clients and stakeholders expect of us, and rightly so.
  • The New Equation will lead PwC to make the most of the multi-disciplinary model – building capabilities at the depth and scale needed to serve our clients as they seek to build trust and deliver sustained outcomes.  At a time when businesses are evolving, we are focused on providing innovative, high-quality services and solutions. The trust that our clients and our people place in PwC, and our high standards of ethical behaviour are fundamental to everything we do.
  • The new world of work will demand the development of new skills. PwC Africa is fully committed to continuing to invest in helping our clients and our people to prepare for change brought about by advances in technology and digitalisation. Digitising our business is a strategic focus for the Africa firm, including upskilling all of our people and making them more digitally astute, as well as growing their competency with the firm’s digital assets and tools to deliver services to clients.
  • To achieve this goal, we will invest some 150 000 hours in training across the continent. Through our New World. New Skills initiative we’re excited to share what we’ve learned, and we plan to help businesses, governments, local communities, and individuals accelerate their own upskilling journeys. We believe everyone should be able to live, learn, work and participate in the digital world, but that will require business leaders, governments and educators to work together to make the world a more resilient, more capable and more inclusive place.

“We are bringing the best of our people, capabilities and technology together to support our clients in building trust and delivering sustained outcomes for their businesses and society,” said Dion Shango.

Building PwC’s passionate community of solvers

The most important challenges faced by clients and stakeholders can only be met through multi-disciplinary, diverse teams. PwC is doubling down on its existing commitment to attract and equip its people to meet this need – combining human ingenuity with technology to deliver sustained outcomes whilst building trust across the value chain.

PwC cntinues to attract diverse talent, supported by expanded flexible and remote working as well as progressing the previously announced commitment to upskill its own people. The 100 000 net new jobs will be focused in emerging capability areas, from ESG to AI. In addition, PwC will continue to hire over 30 000 people into early career posts each year, providing training and qualifications that set people up for a strong career either within PwC or elsewhere.

Bob Moritz said: “We want our people to be the most sought after in the market, because they have the technical, digital and human skills needed to build trust and deliver sustained outcomes. We are proud that so many people begin their careers at PwC before moving on and are committed to continuing to support training and development for a new generation of business leaders.”

Here in our Africa region, PwC is taking further action to improve the diversity of our talent. Dion Shango elaborated:

“The diversity of our firm contributes to its growth in various ways. PwC Africa’s goal is to achieve a staff profile reflective of the demographics across the continent and to achieve equality in the workplace. Our people strategy is focused on being the leading developer of talent on the African continent. We are focused on diversity and fostering an inclusive environment.”

Delivering Net Zero, increasing transparency

In addition, the network is mobilising around the commitment made last year to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which involves transforming its business model to decarbonise its value chain. It is submitting specific science-based targets to the SBTi, and each member firm has appointed a Net Zero leader to enable progress based on local plans.

PwC is also increasing transparency around its own operations, through expanded reporting based on the World Economic Forum/International Business Council metrics, as well as the recommendations of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development.

Bob Moritz went on to say:

“There is a strong need for stakeholders from across society to work together. Whether it’s the pandemic, climate change, social injustice or the digital divide, there is a growing expectation that businesses have a role to play in addressing broader societal issues. Our new strategy is about helping clients address their toughest challenges and delivering for society and the planet.”

Dion Shango concluded: “Our Africa firm actively supports our global commitment to become net zero by 2030. This is an ambitious target that will require the reshaping of our operations, working across our value chain and engaging in public policy discussions. We are also committed to supporting our clients in their sustainability journey. We are equipped to support organisations with insights including energy transitions, TCFD alignment, net-zero strategy and implementation, circular economic opportunities, carbon tax, carbon emissions assurance and much more.

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Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu: UNEP Ecosystem-Based Adaptation Symposium, 2021

23 Jun 2021

South Africa is not exempt from the adverse impacts of climate change as seen from the recent extreme weather events that manifested in the form of drought, floods and heatwaves in different geographical regions of the country.

As a result, the theme for the symposium is appropriate and timely to re-enforce the efforts to address climate change in a local context.

The need for urgency to address climate change is also supported by the 2021 Global Risk Report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), which places climate action failure and biodiversity loss among the top ten global risks.

This was also corroborated by South Africa’s National Biodiversity Assessment (NBA, 2018), which highlights habitat loss and climate change among the top five pressures faced by the country’s terrestrial ecosystems and species.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you may know, our country is endowed with a rich diversity of flora and fauna and this has earned the country a spot among a group of mega-biodiverse countries globally.

Biodiversity provides a wide array of benefits to the economy, society and human wellbeing. 

As a result, maintaining intact ecosystems and species populations, and ensuring connectivity across landscapes and seascapes, is vital for preserving the adaptive capacity of nature to climate change, which in turn will enhance human adaptive capacity and resilience. 

It is for this reason that the South African Government recently adopted the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (NCCAS) which provides an enhanced opportunity to transition the country towards climate resilience and for us to achieve our obligations to the Paris Agreement through the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The NCCAS will thus follow a sustainable development path, guided by anticipation, adaptation and recovery from a changing climate and environment to achieve our sustainable development aspirations.

Anchored by nine (9) strategic interventions which will be implemented across eleven (11) sectors, the NCCAS provides a common reference point for climate change adaptation efforts in South Africa, including EbA.

Biodiversity and ecosystems are recognised as one of the 11 important sectors in which resilience is paramount.

Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA), which entails the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services in helping people to adapt to the effects of climate change, offers a good opportunity to actively leverage the functionality of ecosystem goods and services in our climate change response.

More importantly is that EbA can be applied on diverse land and seascapes, including natural areas, human-modified landscapes such as agricultural areas and urban regions and it is also cost-effective.

In South Africa, EbA is recognised for its potential to support poor and rural communities that are more directly dependent on natural resources and ecosystem services in adapting to climate change. The co-benefits of EbA contribute towards a broader set of socio-economic and development goals, including job creation, poverty reduction and rural/peri-urban development.

As a result, the South African Government has been championing the Ecosystem-based Adaptation approach with a specific focus on the investments in the conservation and protection of ecosystems, mainstreaming of biodiversity across sectors and programmes for restoration and rehabilitation of degraded or stressed ecosystems.

Furthermore, there are a number of various multi-sectoral programmes currently under implementation aimed at inter alia contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Many of these programmes link biodiversity conservation with socio-economic development in line with government priorities and these include DEFF’s Environmental Programmes, including Working for Water, Working for Wetlands, Working for Land and others, that implement restoration activities in support of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) which contributes to supporting adaptation and reducing climate disasters.

These also respond to the seven government priorities including alleviating poverty and uplifting households especially those headed by women through job creation and skills development.

I am also encouraged by the efforts geared towards mainstreaming EbA in South Africa through collaborative initiatives between my department and UNEP South Africa through a project known as “increasing the resilience and reducing the vulnerability of rural communities to the adverse effects of climate change”, funded by the Government of Flanders.

This initiative has facilitated the investment of much-needed resources in two important EbA projects across the country that include the Conservation Stewardship Programme in Namaqualand (Northern Cape), and EbA mainstreaming in the Joe Gqabi District of the Eastern Cape.

These projects are aimed at enhancing sustainable land management (SLM) that will benefit the local communities through the improved flow of ecosystems goods and services that include grazing.

Ladies and gentlemen, municipalities are pivotal to the fight against climate change to enhance the resilience of biodiversity and livelihoods.

Given the latter, I’m delighted to inform you that my department, together with SANBI and the National Disaster Management Centre, are working on finalising a proposal on EbA Disaster Risk Reduction targeted at vulnerable municipalities across the country.

The project is based on the recent initiative by the department to map priority areas for the implementation of EbA at municipal level.

The project is destined for the Green Climate Fund and will definitely contribute to climate proofing municipalities amid the implementation of the District Development Model. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just given you a snapshot of activities undertaken across many landscapes in South Africa under the ambit of EbA.

Taken together, all these interventions will significantly contribute towards the achievement of the Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, the UN decade for the ecosystem, restoration initiative and more importantly stemming biodiversity loss.

Programme Director, in closing, the EbA Symposium is a culmination and testament of the strong partnership between the DFFE, SANBI, UNEP and the Government of Flanders.

This is a clear demonstration of the importance of partnerships in combating a global change challenge like climate change.

Given the calibre of participants and the important topics that will be tackled in the symposium, I have no doubt that we will emerge with renewed determination and commitment to further enhance EbA implementation in a bid to achieve the goals set out in the South African EbA Strategy as part of responding to the directive of the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.

I wish you fruitful discussions in the next three days that will culminate in a clear, and succinct way forward towards a resilient economy and society.

I thank you all. 


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24 hours on Earth: in one image


“Nature reveals itself to us in unique ways, if we stop and look at the world through a window of time,” says photographer Stephen Wilkes.

Using a special photographic technique that reveals how a scene changes from day to night in a single image, Wilkes exposes the Earth’s beautiful complexity and the impacts of climate change — from the disruption of flamingo migrations in Africa to the threat of melting ice — with unprecedented force.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.


Stephen Wilkes · Photographer

By blending up to 100 still photographs into a seamless composite that captures the transition from day to night, Stephen Wilkes reveals the stories hidden in familiar locations.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa: Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change

8 Jun 2021

Opening statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSCC)

Good afternoon.

It is fitting that we are meeting just a few days after celebrating World Environment Day on the 5th of June, which focused on creating a good relationship with nature, and coincides with the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030

Since I assumed the role of Coordinator of this Committee in February last year, much has changed across the world and on our continent.

The global crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has affected all countries.

On our continent, the pandemic has exposed our socio-economic vulnerabilities and increased debt burdens.

It has created new challenges as we work towards the Sustainable Development Goals, responding to climate change as envisaged in the Paris Agreement, as well as attaining our Agenda 2063 aspirations.

While the continent is dealing with the impact of the pandemic on human health, our societies and our economies, Africa continue to bear the brunt of climate change, with annual costs to African economies of between 3 to 5 per cent of their GDPs on average.

Africa continues to be one of the most affected regions and frequently experiences phenomena associated with global warming.

These include droughts, floods, cyclones and other extreme weather events, which have caused enormous damage to infrastructure and displaced thousands of people.

This CAHOSCC meeting takes place soon after the virtual Climate Summit of World Leaders convened by the President of the United States on 22 and 23 April 2021, in which more than 40 world leaders participated.

The Summit reaffirmed that the international community needs to significantly scale up its efforts, raise the level of ambition and support developing countries with the means to implement climate actions.

Progress in addressing the global challenge of climate change can only be made when we all honour our mutual commitments and respect our common, but differentiated responsibilities.

It is absolutely imperative that everyone must contribute their fair share if we are to limit global warming to the agreed target of well-below 2 degrees, build the resilience of our economies and ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens.

Therefore, at this critical juncture, Africa needs to speak with one clear voice to emphasise the primacy of multilateralism and to express our unwavering support for the full implementation of the UN Climate Change Convention and its Paris Agreement.
We need a strong and well-coordinated Common African Position.

We need to adopt key messages that encapsulate Africa’s aspirations and work together in the spirit of unity and solidarity as a Continent.

We need to send a clear message that all African countries require support from international partners and that our development space should be respected to achieve our climate goals and ambitions, while contributing our fair share to the global effort.

We need recognition of our different national circumstances and capacities as it is not realistic to expect us to meet the same timelines as developed countries to transition our economies and to disinvest from fossil fuels.

This is important, especially given the high levels of inequality, unemployment and developmental needs across our Continent, particularly among women and the youth.

Furthermore, we need to send a clear signal that implementation and ambition apply equally to mitigation, adaptation and support.

Increased ambition for action must be matched with enhanced ambition for support.

While this pandemic is having a profound impact on sustainable development and our efforts to combat environmental degradation, it also presents opportunities to set our recovery on a path of transformative sustainable development.

In this regard, many governments and regions are prioritising a green recovery as part of their stimulus packages to address the crisis.

The African Green Stimulus Programme adopted by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in December 2020 is an innovative African-led initiative to support the continent’s recovery.

The African Green Stimulus Programme seeks to harness the opportunities of a green recovery through a more coordinated approach and the scaling up of resource mobilisation, capacity building and technology development.

In conclusion, it is clear that Africa will need climate change, environment and sustainable development initiatives to be implemented at a much larger scale.

This is not only to contribute significantly to Africa’s green recovery, but also to fully realise the Africa We Want as espoused in Agenda 2063.

We must therefore do everything within our means to ensure a successful outcome of COP26 in November this year, particularly for Africa.

I thank you.


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Five satellite images that show how fast our planet is changing

Satellite observations can provide far more insights than that. In fact, they are essential for understanding how our planet is changing and responding to global heating and can do so much more than just “taking pictures”.

By Jonathan Bamber Professor of Physical Geography, University of Bristol

It really is rocket science and the kind of information we can now obtain from what are called Earth observation satellites is revolutionising our ability to carry out a comprehensive and timely health check on the planetary systems we rely on for our survival. We can measure changes in sea level down to a single millimetre, changes in how much water is stored in underground rocks, the temperature of the land and ocean and the spread of atmospheric pollutants and greenhouse gases, all from space.

Here I have selected five striking images that illustrate how Earth observation data is informing climate scientists about the changing characteristics of the planet we call home.

1. The sea level is rising – but where?

Map showing global sea level rise
The sea is rising quickly – but not evenly. ESA/CLS/LEGOS, CC BY-SA

Sea level rise is predicted to be one of the most serious consequences of global heating: under the more extreme “business-as-usual” scenario, a two-metre rise would flood 600-million people by the end of this century. The pattern of sea surface height change, however, is not uniform across the oceans.

This image shows mean sea level trends over 13 years in which the global average rise was about 3.2mm a year. But the rate was three or four times faster in some places, like the southwestern Pacific to the east of Indonesia and New Zealand, where there are numerous small islands and atolls that are already very vulnerable to sea-level rise. Meanwhile, in other parts of the ocean, the sea-level has barely changed, such as in the Pacific to the west of North America.

2. Permafrost is thawing

Source: ESA

Permafrost is permanently frozen ground and the vast majority of it lies in the Arctic. It stores huge quantities of carbon but when it thaws, that carbon is released as CO₂ and an even more potent greenhouse gas: methane. Permafrost stores about 1 500 billion tonnes of carbon – twice as much as in the whole of the atmosphere – and it is incredibly important that carbon stays in the ground.

This animation combines satellite, ground-based measurements of soil temperature and computer modelling to map the permafrost temperature at depth across the Arctic and how it is changing with time, giving an indication of where it is thawing.

3. Lockdown cleans Europe’s skies

Source: ESA

Nitrogen dioxide is an atmospheric pollutant that can have serious health impacts, especially for those who are asthmatic or have weakened lung function, and it can increase the acidity of rainfall with damaging effects on sensitive ecosystems and plant health. A major source is from internal combustion engines found in cars and other vehicles.

This animation shows the difference in NO₂ concentrations over Europe before national pandemic-related lockdowns began in March 2020 and just after. The latter shows a dramatic reduction in concentration over major conurbations such as Madrid, Milan and Paris.

4. Deforestation in the Amazon

Credits: ESA/USGS/Deimos Imaging

Tropical forests have been described as the lungs of the planet, breathing in CO₂ and storing it in woody biomass while exhaling oxygen. Deforestation in Amazonia has been in the news recently because of deregulation and increased forest clearing in Brazil but it had been taking place, perhaps not so rapidly, for decades. This animation shows dramatic loss of rainforest in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia between 1986 and 2010, as observed by satellites.

5. A megacity-sized iceberg

Source: ESA

The Antarctic Ice Sheet contains enough frozen water to raise global sea level by 58 metres if it all ended up in the ocean. The floating ice shelves that fringe the continent act as a buffer and barrier between the warm ocean and inland ice but they are vulnerable to both oceanic and atmospheric warming.

This animation shows the break-off of a huge iceberg dubbed A-74, captured by satellite radar images that have the advantage they can “see” through clouds and operate day or night and are thus unaffected by the 24 hours of darkness that occurs during the Antarctic winter. The iceberg that forms is 1,270 km² in area which is about the same size as Greater London.

These examples illustrate just a few ways in which satellite data are providing unique, global observations of key components of the climate system and biosphere that are essential for our understanding of how the planet is changing. We can use this data to monitor those changes and improve models used to predict future change. In the run-up to the vitally important UN climate conference, COP26 in Glasgow this November, colleagues and I have produced a briefing paper to highlight the role Earth observation satellites will play in safeguarding the climate and other systems that we rely on to make this beautiful, fragile planet habitable.

Disclosure statement

Jonathan Bamber receives funding from the UK Natural Environment Research Council, the European Commission Horizon2020 Framework Programme and the European Space Agency.

Courtesy: The Conversation

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