© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Transnet Freight Rail train has been seen next to tons of coal mined from the nearby Khanye Colliery mine, at the Bronkhorstspruit station, in Bronkhorstspruit, around 90 kilometers north-east of Johannesburg, South Africa, April 26, 2022. REUTERS
(Reuters) -South Africa’s government is still analyzing details of a $ 8.5 billion financing package offered by rich Western nations last year to help the country shift away from coal, Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said on Tuesday.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union pledged the funding during the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, last November. South Africa is the world’s 12th largest 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 the issue of speed is important, but the issue of the nuances and the quality of the decision is also important,” Creecy said.
“I’m not negative about the opportunities that this money presents, but I am realistic that we have to look at it properly and we should not rush when looking at it properly. There is a lot of skepticism 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.
About 93,000 people were employed in South Africa’s coal mines in 2021, according to industry body the Minerals Council.
“We’ve got to ensure that by introducing green technology into the economy, we’re not just changing technology, we’re also dealing with some of the abiding constraints of inequality, unemployment and poverty that confront our economy,” Creecy said.