Understanding Decarbonisation Ambition

Climate science provides indications of the impact of different levels of current and future global anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases on the climate. Economists, engineers and social scientists use this information to provide insights into how fast and extensively economies and societies need to reduce emissions, or “decarbonise”, to avoid the worst of these impacts.

The current understanding of these implications has led to a global agreement being reached on an ambition of achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions that will limit ‘global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees’ This ambition is articulated in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

The emissions reductions required to reach this temperature ambition must now be apportioned to different regions, countries, sectors and activities. The responsibility for apportioning the reductions falls on the shoulders of politicians and their appointed negotiators.

The political process of agreeing and apportioning decarbonisation efforts is a work in progress at both the international and national levels.

In South Africa, the process to apportion sector, emitter or activity level effort is just beginning. There have, however, been a number of techno-economic modelling studies which offer a key contribution to the political process of apportioning decarbonisation effort, for guiding the future direction of travel, and for evaluating progress towards achieving decarbonisation goals.

Given the absence of a mandated level of effort being placed on individual emitters, this project takes as a departure point that the decarbonisation goal for Secunda, Sasolburg and associated value chains will need to at least be aligned with the Paris Agreement.

To provide some indication of what “Paris-alignment” could imply quantitatively for the facilities and their value chains, the project interrogates two of the most comprehensive and credible modelling analyses in South Africa. It also draws on Sasol’s own decarbonisation communications to help understand decarbonisation opportunities and plans for Secunda and Sasolburg. Whilst Sasol’s communications are from a corporate as opposed to national policy perspective, they contain valuable insights into what decarbonisation might technically be possible over time.