Action at Eskom Megawatt Park in Africa

Activists from Greenpeace Africa drive three dumper trucks filled with coal to the front of the Eskom Megawatt Park to unload five tonnes of the rock outside their offices. Effectively blocking one of the entrances to the building with the coal. The activists also hold banners calling on Eskom to 'clean up it's act', to "Stop Coal", to end their usage of the outdated fossil fuel; to publicly demand that Eskom stops the construction of the Kusile coal-fired power station and and shift investments to large-scale renewable energy projects. © Shayne Robinson / Greenpeace

The science is clear: burning coal is driving climate change – and Africa’s people are on the front lines. So, as the continent’s largest CO2 emitter – and the 12th largest in the world – South Africa has a lot to answer for in terms of its contribution to a changing climate.

You’d think the country would be taking decisive steps to reduce its carbon footprint, but let me introduce you to Kusile.

Kusile is a new power plant under construction in Mpumalanga, and will be one of the biggest coal-fired plants in the world. It’ll burn approximately 17 million tonnes of coal a year, meaning that over the course of its 50 year lifespan, 850 million tonnes of coal will be burnt.

What does that mean in terms of its carbon footprint? To calculate this,we convert all the greenhouse gasses that Kusile will emit per year into their CO2 equivalent – doing that results in a figure of around 37 million tonnes of CO2eq per year. Single-handedly, Kusile will ramp up the country’s contribution to climate change by a staggering 10%!

And that’s just the start: if we were to include the carbon footprint of the coal mining that has to feed a giant like kusile, as well as the coal transportation, then that figure would get even uglier.

Insult to Injury

The good news about Kusile, is actually what makes the situation all the more frustrating.

See, South Africa really doesn’t need the coal-fired plant. What we need is more electricity, and for that we have an abundance of renewable energy resources that we could be tapping into. And in fact, coal-fired electricity generation has failed to deliver affordable electricity to an estimated 10 million South Africans. It’s time that we learn our lesson, and make the shift away from coal.

From whichever angle you look at it – job creation, energy generation, energy security, pollution, climate change – South Africa would be far better off investing in renewable energy. So why, then, if we really don’t need Kusile, is Eskom going ahead with such a climate killer?

There are few countries in the world that have as much renewable energy potential as South Africa, and going with renewables would create roughly 40,000 more jobs than the government’s current energy plan.

The bottom line is that if renewable energy is a win for jobs, a win for the climate, and win for energy security – then going ahead with Kusile is clearly a lose-lose-lose situation, and it must be stopped.

The sad reality is that climate change doesn’t respect borders. Our unilateral decision to continue our carbon addiction has ripple effects that travel far past our borders. The South African government is making a choice that will affect millions of people outside its borders, and it’s clearly a very bad choice.

Take Action

The word ‘Kusile’ is Ndebele for ‘good morning’ – very ironic given the impact it’s set to have. You can, however, take action to stop Kusile by signing our call for government to increase its renewable energy ambitions – ensuring that Kusile lives up to its name, by being cancelled.

Watch this space for an exciting new Greenpeace report, outlining what the full costs of coal (and Kusile) really are.