“First, do no harm”? An overview and ethical evaluation of South Africa’s climate change mitigation commitments in light of the Paris Agreement

  • Lee-Anne Steenkamp USB
  • Piet Naude USB
Keywords: carbon budget, climate change, environmental ethics, mitigation, Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), No Harm, Paris Agreement, UNFCCC


South Africa ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016 and thereby committed to reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) concentration levels as part of its self-determined goals in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). This articleviewed the targets in the NDC through an ethical lens. It was demonstrated that the commitment below the ‘business-asusual’ (BAU) level allowed for large increases in South Africa’s emissions without explaining how these were consistent with a specific understanding of what equity required. Also, the NDCtargets were found to be highly insufficient. Consequently, South Africa’s climate change mitigation commitments were deemed inconsistent with the ethical ‘no-harm’ principle.


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