Africa-Press – Botswana. The country’s delegation to the global COP26 climate change summit taking place in Glasgow, Scotland has signed onto a worldwide commitment to ease the use of coal, but declined to sign a pledge to stop issuances of new licences.
Late on Thursday afternoon, information coming out of the conference where 180 countries and 30,000 delegates are hammering out climate change commitments, indicated that at least 49 countries had officially committed to moving away from coal and into clean power.
A list seen by Mmegi includes some of the world’s biggest producers and consumers of coal, as well as some of the most coal-dependent countries in the world.
While Botswana signed onto the agreement, the country’s delegation opted out of committing to not issuing new licences for coal. Botswana has more than 200 billion tonnes of untapped coal resources and minerals authorities have made it clear they intend to exploit these using clean technology, within the three-decade window provided by global climate change commitments.
The clause Botswana declined to agree to reads: “To cease issuance of new permits for new unabated coal-fired power generation projects, cease new construction of unabated coal-fired power generation projects and to end new direct government support for unabated international coal-fired power generation…” However, the country did agree to rapidly scale up the deployment of new clean power generation and energy efficiency and to rapidly scale up technologies and policies “in this decade to achieve a transition away from unabated coal power generation”. The latter commitment requires major economies to achieve the transition in the 2030s or “soon thereafter” and the rest of the world to achieve this in the 2040s or as soon as possible thereafter. Under the previous Paris climate change agreements, Botswana, like other developing countries, had until 2050 to transition away from coal for energy. The country’s Integrated Resource Plan, which outlines new electricity generation to be built and procured by government for the next 40 years, only anticipates 300MW of new coal power to be developed. However, government, through agencies such as the Botswana Development Corporation and the Minerals Development Company Botswana, is supporting other independent coal producers such as Minergy Ltd. The Botswana Public Officers Pension Fund is was among the first funders of Minergy and is also the single biggest shareholder in Tlou Energy, which is developing a cleaner energy project using Coal-Bed Methane. Morupule Coal Mine, which is wholly state-owned, is expanding its coal production capacity from the current 2.8 million tonnes to 3.8 million tonnes per annum, to meet both power generation and exports. Additionally, the Botswana Railways last week revealed that construction of the key Mmamabula – Lephalale rail-link is expected to start within the next three years. The rail link is critical to supporting heavy commodities, particularly coal from eastern Botswana. Besides Minergy, four other companies, Sese Power, Jindal Africa, Shumba Energy and Maatla Energy, are at advanced stages of developing their projects for coal and energy. Shumba Energy has however recently refocussed its attention on a 100MW solar plant it intends to build near Tati at a cost of P800 million. Botswana Chamber of Mines CEO, Charles Siwawa previously told Mmegi that Botswana would use all coal opportunities available at its disposal ahead of the official cut off by the Paris agreements. “We have a lot of coal and even if we gain $10 billion between now and when they want us to stop, for us it means a lot for our economy, even if for some people it may not be anything,” he said. “We can use that $10 billion to improve and when we stop, the economy will be somewhere. “We are also not irresponsible in the development of our coal and the mining has to be done responsibly.” Efforts to secure comments from members of the Botswana delegation in Glasgow proved fruitless at press time.