As with most addictions, whether to sugar or heroin, the initial rush from SA’s long-standing coal habit has given way to a deepening malaise. Coal-based technologies are less and less competitive, and demand for coal is shrinking at home and abroad. Meanwhile, coal dependence is fuelling SA’s interlinked electricity and climate crises.

SA has long been an international outlier on coal. In 2019 its share in global coal production was nine times its share in the world economy, and five times its population share. In the mid-2010s coal fuelled over 90% of SA’s electricity, compared to 13% in other upper-middle income economies excluding China, and 70% in China...

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