Financial TimesFinancial Times

The cost of getting South Africa to stop using coal

By Chris Campbell, David Pilling

02 Nov 2022 · 10 min read

Editor's Note

At COP26, the global north pledged $8.5 billion to help South Africa transition to green energy. This FT deep dive looks at the structural issues and unfair expectations holding South Africa back.

Dumisani Mahlangu sits in the cab of a dragline excavator, digging 40-tonne shovels of coal from an opencast mine outside Johannesburg. “Coal has made me what I am,” he says of his well-paid job in a country where one in three people lacks work. “I wanted to be a doctor, but God put me in the mines.”

South Africa is among the world’s most coal-dependent nations. Coal accounts for roughly 85 per cent of its electricity, making the country of 60mn people the world’s 13th-biggest emitter of carbon, bigger than Britain.

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