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South Africa Sectors

What is South Africaʼs pathway to limit global warming to 1.5°C?

Total final energy consumption of the industry sector has steadily increased from a 1993 low of 698,108 TJ to 1,001,498 TJ in 2019, largely driven by the overall performance of the economy.21,23 However, the emissions picture has been mixed, with vacillations driven by global economic pressures, electricity supply constraints, changes in product output, a growing service sector and slow annual GDP growth.23,24 Since 2017, in particular, fuel combustion emissions across all sectors have been decreasing due in part to the slowing economy (pre- and during COVID).8,23,25,26

Process emissions from the Industrial Processes and Product Use (IPPU) sector contributed on average, 7% of total national emissions (excl. LULUCF) between 2000 and 2017.24 The main drivers of emissions in the IPPU sector are the metal industries – principally the production of iron, steel and ferroalloys – and the mineral industries.23 More efficient energy and material use, and minimising waste, will be key to cutting these emissions, but the sector remains amongst the hardest to decarbonise.

To decarbonise the industrial sector, the share of electricity (powered by renewable energy) used in the sector would need to increase from 38% in 2019, to approximately 49% by 2030 and to between 69 to 82% by 2050. When combined with hydrogen and biomass, electrification penetration should reach up to 95% by 2050.

South Africa’s Post-2015 Energy Efficiency Strategy sets sectoral energy intensity improvement of 15% for industry and mining sectors by 2030, and aims to achieve this by implementing minimum energy performance standards (MEPS), amongst others.

1 Climate Action Tracker. South Africa’s Presidential climate commission recommends stronger mitigation target range for updated NDC: close to 1.5°C compatible | Climate Action Tracker. (2021).

2 Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries. Proposed updated Nationally Determined Contribution. (2021).

3 Climate Action Tracker. South Africa 2020. Climate Action Tracker. (2020).

4 Republic of South Africa. South Africa’s Low-Emission Development Strategy 2050. (2020).

5 Department of Energy, S. A. Integrated Resource Plan (IRP2019). (2019).

6 The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa. Political Declaration on the Just Energy Transition in South Africa. (2021).

7 Department of Environmental Affairs. South Africa’s 3rd Biennial Update Report to the United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change. (2019).

8 Climate Analytics. Climate Transparency Report – South Africa. (2020).

9 Department of Environment Forestry and Fisheries. Draft 7th National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report for the Republic of South Africa for public comment. Government Gazette. (2020).

10 Department of Energy. SA Energy Sector Report 2019. (2019).

11 Eberhard, A. & Naude, R. Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. (2017).

12 Government of South Africa. South Africa’s Low-Emission Development Strategy. (2020).

13 South African Revenue Service. Latest on the impact of COVID-19 on SARS. (2020).

14 Government of South Africa. National Climate Change Response White Paper. (2014).

15 Department of Environmental Affairs. South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). (2016).

16 Department of Environmental Affairs. South Africa’s 2nd Annual Climate Change Report. Department of Environmental Affairs vol. 3. (2016).

17 Department of Energy. Draft Post-2015 National Energy Efficiency Strategy for public comment. (2016).

18 Department of Transport. Green Transport Strategy for South Africa (2018-2050). (2018).

19 Surridge, A. D. et al. CCUS Progress in South Africa. in 15th International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies (GHGT-15) (2021).

20 United Nations. World Urbanisation Prospects. (2018) doi:978-92-1-151517-6.

21 International Energy Agency (IEA). IEA Data and Statistics, Data Browser. World Energy Outlook. (2021).

22 Cilliers, Z. & Euston-Brown, M. Aiming for Zero-Carbon New Buildings in South African metros., (2018).

23 Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment. South Africa’s 4th Biennial Update Report To the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. (2021).

24 Department of Forestry Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE). National GHG Inventory Report South Africa 2017. (2021).

25 Statistics South Africa. Economy slips into recession. (2019).

26 Statistics South Africa. Third wave of COVID and civil disorder pummel economy as GDP falls by 1,5%. (2020).

27 Statistics South Africa. National Household Travel Survey (NHTS) 2020. (2020).

28 While global cost-effective pathways assessed by the IPCC Special Report 1.5°C provide useful guidance for an upper-limit of emissions trajectories for developed countries, they underestimate the feasible space for such countries to reach net zero earlier. The current generation of models tend to depend strongly on land-use sinks outside of currently developed countries and include fossil fuel use well beyond the time at which these could be phased out, compared to what is understood from bottom-up approaches. The scientific teams which provide these global pathways constantly improve the technologies represented in their models – and novel CDR technologies are now being included in new studies focused on deep mitigation scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement. A wide assessment database of these new scenarios is not yet available; thus, we rely on available scenarios which focus particularly on BECCS as a net-negative emission technology. Accordingly, we do not yet consider land-sector emissions (LULUCF) and other CDR approaches.

South Africaʼs energy mix in the industry sector

petajoule per year

SSP1 Low CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
SSP1 High CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
Low Energy Demand
20192030204020504 000
High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
20192030204020504 000
  • Oil and e-fuels
  • Coal
  • Natural gas
  • Biomass
  • Biofuel
  • Biogas
  • Hydrogen
  • Electricity
  • Heat

South Africaʼs industry sector direct CO₂ emissions (of energy demands)


  • Historical emissions
  • Low Energy Demand
  • SSP1 Low CDR reliance
  • SSP1 High CDR reliance
  • High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance

South Africaʼs GHG emissions from industrial processes


  • SSP1 Low CDR reliance
  • SSP1 High CDR reliance
  • High Energy Demand - Low CDR reliance
  • Historical emissions

1.5°C compatible industry sector benchmarks

Direct CO₂ emissions and direct electrification rates from illustrative 1.5°C pathways for South Africa

Decarbonised industry sector by
Direct CO₂ emissions
15 to 16
2 to 5
2035 to 2040
Relative to reference year in %
−85 to −84%
−98 to −95%
Share of electricity
48 to 49
64 to 70
69 to 82
Share of electricity, hydrogren and biomass
73 to 85
89 to 91
94 to 95