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Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Ian Forsyth/Bloomberg via Getty Images

At COP26 on Tuesday, the largest carbon emitter in Africa struck a deal with several industrialized countries, including the U.S., for funding its much-needed shift from coal.

The big picture: The $8.5 billion deal with the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and the European Union will finance a "Just Energy Transition Partnership" to reduce emissions and ensure coal workers are not left behind by the shift to renewables.

Why it matters: South Africa's economy is one of the most carbon-intensive in the world, with a fleet of 15 coal-fired power plants providing more than three-quarters of the nation's electricity.

  • If the financing model is successful in South Africa, it could provide a model for decarbonizing other coal-heavy economies.
  • Ceasing to burn coal is viewed as key in order to meet the Paris Agreement's more stringent temperature target.

The funding, according to an EU announcement, will come in the form of "various mechanisms including grants, concessional loans and investments, and risk-sharing instruments," including from the private sector.

Context: According to the Washington Post, South Africa faced a heavy debt load weighing down Eskom, the state-owned utility.

  • The country is already seeing rolling blackouts due to failing electricity infrastructure, which makes rewiring it a more urgent priority.

What they're saying: "We look forward to a long-term partnership that can serve as an appropriate model of support for climate action from developed to developing countries," said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in a statement.

Go deeper

Omicron variant detected in more countries

The Galeao International airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazi. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and South Korea on Wednesday became the latest countries to report cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. They followed similar announcements made in Brazil and Japan on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The arrival of the "variant of concern" in more countries underscores the difficulties governments are facing as they seek to reopen economies stalled by nearly two years of pandemic restrictions in the era of global air travel.

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

3 hours ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.