Remarks by Honourable Premier RM Mtshweni-Tsipane on the occasion of the Mpumalanga Energy Summit
24 May 2022Programme Director;
Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Ms Barbara Creecy;
The Member of the Executive Council for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Mr Vusumuzi Mkhatshwa;
Members of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces present;
Members of the Executive Council present;
The Executive Mayor of Nkangala District Municipality, Cllr Leah Mabuza;
Our host, the Executive Mayor of Emalahleni Municipality, Cllr Conny Nkalitshana;
Members of the diplomatic corps present;
uBukhosi from across the Province, led by the Chairperson of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, Inkhosi SG Ngomane;
Senior Managers of the Mpumalanga Provincial Government, led by the Director General, Mr. Makhukhu Mampuru;
Distinguished guests, speakers and panellists;
Ladies and gentlemen;
- Programme Director, it is a pleasure for me to officially open this inaugural Mpumalanga Energy Summit
- On behalf of the Mpumalanga Provincial Government, I wish to express gratitude to the organizers for making this a Summit a reality.
- Through your hard work, we have hope that provincial priorities, such as “climate change” and “just transition”, as pronounced in the State of the Province Address delivered earlier this year will gain greater momentum for the sake of our children and future generations.
- Programme Director, last month in his address to the Joint Sitting of Parliament on widespread flooding in our sister provinces of KwaZulu Natal, the Eastern Cape and the North West, our President, His Excellency, Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa noted that “these storms, the resulting loss of life and destruction of key infrastructure are a reminder that climate change remains the biggest single threat to the future of humanity”.
- Scientists across the world have also alerted us to the effects of climate change. In 2021 alone they pointed us to disasters like the massive wildfires in California, deadly flooding in China and Europe, and record heat in Siberia.
- Indeed ladies and gentlemen, climate change has been described as an ‘existential’ challenge that confronts all humanity.
- There is an influential report released last year by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which documents the rapid acceleration of climate change and the importance of reaching net zero emissions by 2050.
- This report and other geographical literature warn that economic costs of climate change have been underestimated.
- If they remain unchecked, the economic effects of climate change could displace hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the developing world, increasing the potential for conflict.
- On behalf of the Mpumalanga Provincial Government, I wish to express our support for the country’s commitment to playing its part in addressing climate change by reducing global carbon emissions.
- For us as a provincial government, the success of this Energy Summit will also lie in the extent to which its deliberations lay a foundation for a shared perspective on how we can support individuals and communities as we move towards a low-carbon, ecologically friendly and socially sustainable economy or what is now commonly referred to as the ”just transition”.
- Programme Director, Mpumalanga’s contribution to our country’s energy sector is fairly considerable.
- As part of our country’s economic reconstruction and recovery energy security will continue to be vital.
- In the Mpumalanga Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (MERRP) we have included a Pillar called “Sufficient, secure and reliable energy supply and Green Economy initiatives” to recognize the province’s existing role and necessary preparations for an increased focus on renewables as part of reducing emissions.
- Research, such as that conducted by the Trade and Industrial Strategies (TIPS), has shown that 80% of coal mining activities are concentrated in two districts in the Mpumalanga Province, namely Nkangala and Gert Sibande.
- In terms of downstream activities, electricity generation and petrochemical production are also concentrated in Mpumalanga, specifically Secunda.
- Without a doubt, the ramifications of our efforts to move away from fossil fuels, especially coal, will be felt in Emalahleni, Steve Tshwete, Govan Mbeki and Msukaligwa.
- Transitioning to a low-carbon economy, less reliant on fossil-fuels will have a devastating impact on individuals and communities in these areas unless proactive and deliberate actions are taken.
- As the National Planning Commission has also pronounced previously, a “just transition” is one “where working people, and in particular the poor and vulnerable, are protected and do not have to shoulder the burden of shifting to a low carbon, cleaner and more climate resilient society and economy”.
- I am happy to indicate that the provincial government is working closely with stakeholders such as ESKOM on a Just Transition Programme.
- It is our intention that such partnerships must assist, not only the transition to a carbon neutral economy but also increase much needed energy security through fostering renewable energy production, repurpose power stations and explore ways for creating opportunities for small businesses and decent work.
- Programme Director, perhaps allow me at this stage to commend ESKOM for releasing land in our province for electricity projects under 100 Mega Watts (MW) that can now be built without a licence and wheel electricity through the grid for self-consumption, or for sale to third-party consumers.
- I am certain that the auction was undertaken successfully and included participation by businesses from the province, including women and youth.
- It is pleasing to see in your programme the inclusion of discussions on financing the Just Transition. This is an important area that has been uppermost in our minds given the limited fiscal envelope due to pressures related to our response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- I am also glad that the mining houses and other local businesses are attending the Summit and will join us in setting out how to respond to Just Transition and development challenges facing our regions.
- Drawing on National Planning Commission research that was undertaken recently let me highlight these challenges as including the following;
- The declining economy that will be diversified from coal;
- High air pollutants and greenhouse gases and emissions from various sources including coal mines, 12 coal fired power stations, refinery, industrial processes, traffic emissions, etc;
- Loss of ecological infrastructure and the collapsing natural capital such as biodiversity, ecosystems, and this poses threats to the tourism industry in the province;
- Health risks and impacts;
- Energy insecurity;
- Poor (unsustainable)land-use management practices
- Food insecurity; and
- Migration (of people, pests, diseases, etc. due to climate related factors).