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S. African close to a Just Transition Framework

By Ndumiso Mlilo in Johannesburg, South Africa | | Updated: 2022-05-10 20:11
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South Africans would like the country to see a Just Transition Framework which prioritises economic growth and the livelihoods of those affected by a move to green energy while reducing greenhouse emissions.

This came out of the two-day multi-stakeholder conference on the framework which concluded on Friday in Johannesburg to get input on what should be on the blueprint.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa established the Presidential Climate Commission in December 2020, which has been crisscrossing the country since then, soliciting views on what the people want to be included on the framework. One of the messages which featured prominently during the deliberations was workers and communities should be empowered and supported during the transition. They emphasized risk and opportunity alike should be distributed fairly.

Blade Nzimande, minister of higher education, science and technology, welcomed views from various stakeholders. He stated climate change should be compulsory and taught in basic, tertiary and community education including workers at various organizations.

"We need a particular economic growth trajectory in order to deal with climate change. I am glad for the input, there was strong emphasis on innovation, skills development and education. We can't have education without education on climate change, be it formal or informal. All sectors of society would be affected by this transition. We are not going to have climate justice in the midst of corruption. We must mainstream the struggle against corruption," Nzimande said.

He stated people from various movements like labor, political parties, faith-based organizations and communities defeated the apartheid government through unity, adding unity is required to tackle climate change.

There was consensus that urgent action is required to address climate change. Many gave the example of the floods at KwaZulu-Natal, which resulted in 435 deaths and infrastructure damage. Many attendees said there must be good governance, transparency and accountability.

Lwandle Mqadi, business and sustainability expert from Industrial Development Corporation, said some people questioned if the government has the capability and capacity to implement a just transition. Mqadi stated some said there should be a just transition within all government departments, including local authorities.

She said some recommended government policies have to be aligned toward a just transition, adding they explored possible funding mechanisms including development finance institutions, taxes, subsidies and incentives.

Brian Mantlana, a commissioner in the Presidential Climate Commission, said there would be changes in all sectors of the economy including energy, agriculture, use of land and people's livelihoods.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, external affairs director for Vodacom South Africa, said business should make a transition to using cleaner energy. She said they have a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by diversifying the energy mix. Netshitenzhe said it is urgent for the transition to a low-emission economy.

She said, "This is particularly important for workers in industries most affected by global warming such as energy, construction, mining and farming. As we transition to a low-carbon economy we also have a responsibility not to leave anybody behind. Our new target for energy consumption is one of the many ways we're tackling our own environmental impact, because we understand South Africa can only transition into a sustainable, climate-resilient, low-emission economy if everyone plays their part."

Fikile Mbalula, South Africa's minister of transport, said the government would pursue a "people-centered approach" to addressing the impacts of climate change. He said they would like to carefully move away from the use of fossil fuels while protecting and empowering workers and communities. Mbalula said the just framework should be carefully crafted and help the country navigate to cleaner energy.

He said, "We cannot afford to get this wrong. The risks are too great for our people, for our climate and for our future economic competitiveness. We must continue to phase out coal in a manner that is carefully structured and planned. Specifically, this means repurposing and repowering our existing coal plants and creating new livelihoods for workers and communities most impacted in the change."

The Presidential Commission on Climate Change will use the inputs from the conference and those gathered across the country in the recommendations which would be submitted to the government by the middle of the year.

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