No. 9 May 1997 Supplement

Country Study News

The Newsletter of the UNEP Collaborating Centre on Energy and Environment

Regional Climate Change Mitigation in Southern Africa

Gordon A. Mackenzie and Ian H. Rowlands, UNEP Centre

One of the regions selected for study in the UNEP/GEF project is the group of countries making up SADC (the Southern African Development Community). SADC is a grouping of 12 countries ­ Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe ­ whose expressed aim is to promote regional economic development and integration. The Community has evolved from a previous grouping, SADCC (the Southern African Development Coordination Conference) with the addition of South Africa and, most recently, Mauritius.

Technically, SADC represents a sub­region, but as a well­defined group of countries, already interacting across most sectors, and with a growing collective identity, it represents a suitable case for the study of internationally coordinated mitigation actions.

The SADC regional study is being carried out as a collaboration among the Southern Centre for Energy and Environment (SCEE), based in Harare, Zimbabwe; the Centre for Energy, Environment, Science and Technology (CEEST) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and the UNEP Centre. Responsibilities within the project are shared so that SCEE is working on regional aspects of electrical power supply, while CEEST is studying non­power options for mitigation at the regional level. The latter are expected to include broad measures, within trade and transport arrangements, as well as other energy sector initiatives, such as markets for renewables. The UNEP Centre, as study coordinator, is responsible for the synthesis of these studies, as well as research into the institutional and political issues involved in regional cooperation related to climate change.

An important characteristic of the southern African region with regard to energy resources is the existence of coal in the southern part (predominantly South Africa and Zimbabwe) and vast hydropower potential in the north (Zambia and Zaire). One of the most obvious areas for cooperation within SADC, directly linked to climate change mitigation, is the regional pooling of electricity capacity with a view to minimising CO2 emissions.

Power trading is already taking place within the Southern African Power Pool and power is being exchanged between the utilities of the region on a daily basis. The motivation behind SAPP, however, is not to minimise CO2 emissions. The power pool is fully justifiable in terms of security of supply and economic considerations. The addition of CO2 emission minimisation would provide a further argument for such cooperation, and its possible extension.

CO2 emissions at the regional level could be minimised to some degree by operating existing plant to favour the import of hydropower from the north. The major opportunity for CO2 reduction though lies in directing future investment towards low or zero emission plant like hydropower rather than coal­fired stations.

The potential barriers against international cooperation aimed at CO2 reduction are nevertheless daunting. National interests, particularly with regard to security of supply, remain of paramount importance to the actors involved. The technical complexity of large generating capacity separated by long distances also presents problems with regard to system stability. However, the potential environmental gains to be achieved, both locally and globally, are considerable so that there may be large incentives to overcome both the political and technical difficulties.

Regional cooperation for climate change mitigation has received little attention so far, and the national and regional actors within SADC have not been fully sensitised to the possibilities and opportunities. The present activity, along with the parallel study in the Andean Group, will hopefully contribute to this sensitisation process.

A first regional workshop within the UNEP/GEF project was held in Harare in February 1997, hosted by the Southern Centre for Energy and Environment. The workshop brought together the country teams from Botswana, Tanzania and Zambia, as well as representatives from utilities in these countries, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

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Last updated: 30 July 1997
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