Skip to content
Infrastructure blog

IPW: world set to breach 1.5°C target, South Africa’s rail policy

24 May 2022

In this Infrastructure Policy Watch, we look at a new report on global temperatures over the next five years, and South Africa publishes new policy to deliver a rail ‘renaissance’.

IPW: world set to breach 1.5°C target, South Africa’s rail policy
South Africa's new National Rail Policy seeks to support the country's commitments to mitigate climate change. Image credit: Neil B/Shutterstock

World Meteorological Organization (WMO) warns of global temperatures

The WMO has warned that there’s a 48% chance that annual average global temperatures will temporarily reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in at least one of the next five years.

The target of the Paris Climate Agreement is to keep global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius against pre-industrial levels and aim for 1.5 degrees.

The update, led by the UK's Met Office, also highlights that 'the chance of the five-year average for 2022-2026 being higher than the last five years (2017-2021) is 93%'.

The WMO notes that the chance of temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees has increased from close to zero in 2015 to nearly 50%.

In a press release, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said, “This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

“The 1.5°C figure is not some random statistic. It is rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet,” Taalas said.

The update also highlights that while there’s a 50% chance the 1.5-degree threshold will be breached in one of the next five years, there is only a 10% chance at present that the mean average temperature for the five years will be over 1.5 degrees.

ICE's view:

The effect of rising temperatures has been outlined in detail by the IPCC.

Countries need to step up their climate resilience efforts and focus on sustainable development, with data from meteorological organisations useful for providing detailed prediction models to feed into national strategies.

ICE facilitated a briefing by the Met Office to Parliamentarians in 2020. Read the summary.

South Africa publishes new National Rail Policy

South Africa’s White Paper on National Rail Policy aims to give a strategic direction for South African rail development.

The white paper sets out a focus on redressing the importance of rail over road in passenger and freight movement. It seeks to ensure rail contributes to the economy while helping to meet South Africa's climate mitigation targets.

According to the white paper, the main focus is on delivering a renaissance in rail in the markets of 'heavy haul, heavy intermodal, contemporary urban and regional rapid transit, and high and higher speed (160 to 300 km/h).'

Some of the goals outlined in the National Rail Policy are to:

  • Reposition rail as the backbone of SA's urban and medium-to-long-distance transport mobility needs for both commuters and freight.
  • Provide affordable mobility for people and visitors in densely populated urban settings.
  • Enhance the competitiveness of the country's exports and facilitate trade.
  • Maximise the socio-economic contribution of rail in South Africa and the wider Southern Africa region.
  • Support SA's commitments to mitigate climate change by increasing rail's contribution.
  • Facilitate modal shift from road to rail for both freight and passengers.

The policy sets out a range of objectives and activities that will be pursued to meet these goals.

However, there’s a clear primary intervention focused on increasing rail sector investment and a secondary intervention of developing appropriate institutions.

ICE's view:

As we’ve been exploring in our Next Steps for public transport funding post-Covid programme, public transport, including rail, is vital to reducing carbon emissions from transport.

South Africa’s National Rail Policy recognises this as a key driver for renewed investment in rail development.

South Africa is starting from a low base and attracting private sector investment will be essential to accelerate the shift.

In case you missed it…

  • At an ICE hosted All-Party Parliamentary Group on Infrastructure (APPGI) event, the UK’s rail minister gave an update on the Integrated Rail Plan. This article provides a summary of what he discussed.
  • The recent UK Queen’s Speech set out the legislative agenda for the next year. Andrew Jones, chair of the APPGI gave his take on the key provisions for infrastructure in this article.
  • And we summarise our view on the UK Parliamentary bills to watch over the next year.

Check back in a fortnight for the next edition of the ICE's Infrastructure Policy Watch. You can also sign up to ICE Informs to get a monthly digest of the latest policy activities from ICE, including calls for evidence to support our ongoing advice to policymakers.

  • Chris Richards, director of policy at Institution of Civil Engineers