South Africa energy minister backs coal amid climate talks

South Africa mines minister Gwede Mantashe (Credit: Flickr)

South Africa’s energy minister encouraged investment in technology that could potentially prolong the use of coal by mitigating emissions while a visiting delegation of rich nations work on a plan to end the nation’s dependence on the fossil fuel.

The call by Mineral and Energy Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe at a mining investment conference comes as envoys from the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and the European Union meet with South African ministers, labor and business leaders around financing a move away from coal.

“When we talk of carbon capture, storage and use, maybe it’s expensive,” Mantashe said in his closing address at the event on Wednesday. “Renewable energy was expensive, we invested and brought that into the economy and the price is coming down — we must be prepared to invest in cleaner coal technology.”

This should be done as not to “sterilize” the resource, he said.

The parallel discussions demonstrate disparities in South Africa’s approach to climate change, where the bulk of electricity is generated by burning coal and supporting a mining industry that employs tens of thousands of workers amid surging unemployment.

Rich nations have pitched grants and loans approaching $5 billion to reduce use of the fossil fuel, a person familiar with the discussions said Wednesday.

When asked about Mantashe’s involvement in the meetings with envoys, the energy department said that the environment department is the lead in that matter.

(By Paul Burkhardt, with assistance from Antony Sguazzin)


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