Clean Development Mechanism : is it a tool to promote the use of renewable energy in South Africa?
Climate change, greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and environmental pollution have all become buzzwords of our time. The awareness in recent years of the degradation of the planet by prioritising economic gain has allowed for open debate about the way the planet is being affected by development. However, there is wide consensus that development cannot be stopped or slowed down, but may be conducted in a sustainable way. The aim of this research is to investigate the role of Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as a tool to promote the use of renewable energy in South Africa. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997, which stipulated that developed nations of the world would take on emission reduction targets to reduce their GHG emissions by five percent below 1990 levels. These emissions will be evaluated by the CDM Executive Board at the end of 2012 and penalties are payable should countries not meet their stipulated targets. South Africa is defined as a country (under CDM) which is eligible for hosting CDM projects, and does not have emission reduction targets. This research aims to explore the barriers to the successful implementation of CDM projects in South Africa, with a particular focus on renewable energy projects. In order to address the research problem, the theory of ecological modernisation (Mol, 1995; Hajer, 1995; Christoff, 1996) is applied to analyse the policy decisions around renewable energy, thus highlighting areas that need attention in order to make significant changes in the climate change policy decisions prevailing at the time of the study. Ecological modernisation is a policy orientated discourse which describes environmental issues in a particular manner. In the developing country context of South Africa, a case of weak ecological modernisation has been established (Christoff, 1996; Scott and Oelofse, 2005; Blowers and Pain, 1999). This is in part due to the weak participatory approach which has been adopted by government. This study had found that South Africa has robust and progressive policies in terms of environmental management and renewable energy. However, the area in which it seems to be failing is implementation. The results of this study show that CDM is not popular in South Africa due to a host of reasons. Funding and lack of implementation of projects seem to be the key factors. Eskom’s relatively low electricity price still hinders the wide spread implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. This study concludes that CDM projects have not succeeded in South Africa due to the bureaucratic process that CDM projects need to undergo coupled with the two issues mentioned above (funding and relatively cheap electricity). This is completely different compared to its other developing country counterparts like India, China and Brazil. This study was conducted at a time when the Kyoto Protocol was nearing its end. Should the agreement not be extended, it would be a lost opportunity for South Africa in terms of gaining technology transfer from the developed world as well as much needed funding for climate change projects.