'You Can't Eat Electricity' Why tackling inequality and hunger should be at the heart of low carbon development in South Africa | Low Carbon Economy

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How can low carbon development be pursued without making inequality and food insecurity worse? South Africa, like many middle income countries, faces the challenge of how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the context of high levels of inequality and persistent hunger and malnutrition. High, and rising, prices force too many people to choose between using scarce household budgets for food or for energy. This Oxfam discussion paper considers how putting action on inequality and hunger at the heart of the low carbon development agenda in South Africa could also help to mobilize new constituencies of political support for low carbon action, which could be critical if vested interests in the carbon-based, energy-intensive economy are to be overcome.
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  OXFAM DISCUSSION PAPERS MAY 2013 Oxfam Discussion Papers   Oxfam Discussion Papers are written to contribute to public debate and to invite feedbac k on development and humanitarian policy issues. They are ’work in progress’ documents, and do not necessarily constitute final publications or reflect Oxfam policy positions. The views and recommendations expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Oxfam. For more information, or to comment on this paper, email rmistry@oxfam.org.uk www.oxfam.org ‘YOU CAN’T EAT ELECTRICITY ’   Why tackling inequality and hunger should be at the heart of low carbon development in South Africa South Africa, like many middle income countries, is facing the challenge of pursuing low carbon policies in the context of high levels of inequality and persistent hunger and malnutrition. High and rising food and electricity prices are exacerbating inequalities, and leave too many people to choose between using scarce household budgets for food or for electricity. A key question for low carbon development is how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst reducing inequality and food insecurity. This discussion paper considers how putting inequality and hunger at the heart of the low carbon development agenda in South Africa could also help to mobilize new constituencies of political support for low carbon action, which could be critical if vested interests in the carbon-based, energy-intensive economy are to be overcome.  2   ‘You Can’t Eat Electricity’ Why tackling inequality and hunger should be at the heart of low carbon development in South Africa CONTENTS  Abbreviations 1. Introduction 2. Fighting hunger and climate change in an unequal country 3. High ambitions for emissions cuts are not on track 4. A new politics of pro-poor low carbon development is needed 5. Building a popular pro-poor politics of low carbon development 6. Conclusion  Appendices Bibliography Notes  ABBREVIATIONS  ANC African National Congress BEE Black economic empowerment BRRR Budgetary Review and Recommendation Report COGTA Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs CPI Consumer Price Index DEA Department of Environmental Affairs DoE Department of Energy DPME Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation EGI Electricity Governance Initiative EIUG Energy Intensive Users Group EJN Economic Justice Network FBAE Free Basic Alternative Energy FBE Free Basic Electricity GDP Gross Domestic Product GHG Greenhouse gases IEP Integrated Energy Plan IPAP Industrial Policy Action Plan IRP Integrated Resource Plan LCOE Levelized cost of electricity  ‘You Can’t Eat Electricity’ Why tackling inequality and hunger should be at the heart of low carbon development in South Africa 3 LTMS Long-term mitigation scenarios MCA Multi-criteria analysis MYPD3 Multi Year Price Determination 3 NCCRP National Climate Change Response Policy NDP National Development Plan NEES National Energy Efficiency Strategy NFSD National Framework for Sustainable Development NERSA National Energy Regulator of South Africa NGP New Growth Path NPC National Planning Commission PPI Producer Price Index NSSD1 National Strategy for Sustainable Development and Action Plan NUMSA National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa NWA National Water Act NWRS National Water Resource Strategy PPD Peak, plateau and decline REIPP Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement programme SAFCEI Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute SALGA South African Local Government Association SWHs Solar water heaters UNFCCC United Nations Framework for Convention on Climate Change WTO World Trade Organization  4   ‘You Can’t Eat Electricity’ Why tackling inequality and hunger should be at the heart of low carbon development in South Africa Up to 10 million South  Africans are vulnerable to food insecurity, where a small change in circumstances can bring about hunger. Malnutrition and stunting of children is still  prevalent, especially in the rural areas, where hunger is a daily experience. Tina Joemat-Petterson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 1   1 INTRODUCTION The impacts of climate change on food production, livelihoods and hunger are becoming increasingly clear. In South Africa, Oxfam has worked with partners to document the way the shifting seasons are already making it difficult for small-scale and large-scale farmers alike to adapt (Oxfam, 2011a). Climate projections for the Southern African region suggest alarming declines in crop growing periods unless urgent action is taken to slash global greenhouse gas emissions (Thornton, 2010; Lobell, 2011). Developed countries are overwhelmingly responsible for causing this crisis, and have most capacity to respond to it. But due to their collective failure to keep the commitments they have made under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) over twenty years, it is now imperative that all countries take some action to reduce emissions, particularly those middle-income countries like South Africa where emissions are relatively high and rising. This presents a challenge, because today the majority, and a growing number, of the world’s poorest people live in middle-income countries which, like South Africa, are marked by very high levels of inequality (Sumner, 2012). Perhaps the most shocking expression of such inequality is the prevalence of hunger and food insecurity among conditions of plenty. The percentage of households in South Africa that experienced hunger halved between 2002 and 2007, from 23.8 percent to 10.5 percent, and increased to 11.5 percent in 2011; 21.2 percent of households in 2011 had limited access to food. This is worse in certain areas, notably in the North West province, where 32.9 percent had inadequate or severely inadequate food access. 1  How can greenhouse gas emissions be reduced in such circumstances while reducing inequality and food insecurity? Policies are needed that ensure that any burden from cutting emissions is borne by those with most responsibility and capacity, and do not exacerbate inequalities or lead to greater food insecurity for those on low incomes. At a minimum, low carbon development should complement and not harm the ongoing struggles for equality and rights, not least the right to food. This discussion paper is a contribution to the debate on low carbon development in South Africa, and argues that putting the fight against inequality and hunger at the heart of low carbon development can also give a shot in the arm to the politics of climate change in countries like South Africa. South Africa has shown significant leadership as a middle-income developing country in international climate change policy, and has committed to a set of goals for action on climate change which are ambitious by international comparison. But like many countries, from Mexico to the EU, this leadership has to date largely rested on high-level political will and the drive of a relatively small group of enlightened elites and technocrats. With the appetite for international climate change debate slowing in the years since Copenhagen, it is now proving more difficult to successfully and fully implement such political commitments in the absence of broader-based domestic constituencies of support. In South  Africa, an extensive policy agenda is running into delays in implementation and delivery, and measures designed to address inequities in energy use are proving inadequate.
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