A member of South Africa’s National Planning Commission (NPC) has called for the Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission (PCCCC) to be established, arguing that such a multi-stakeholder institutional platform is required to implement the just transition vision outlined in the country’s National Development Plan (NDP).
Tasneem Essop, who was instrumental in writing the NDP chapter dealing with environmental sustainability and South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon economy, stressed during a virtual dialogue on July 7 that the principles for the just transition have already been agreed and that the focus should, thus, shift to implementation.
Those principles, she said, were premised on ensuring that the “process, content and outcome” of the transition be filtered through a prism of ensuring justice, which in the South African context meant addressing inequality and poverty.
“The just transition should, therefore, not be driven by any one government department and the PCCCC will hopefully be composed of all four social partners,” she added during the event hosted by Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS).
She noted that the concluding conference for the NDP recommended that the PCCCC drive the just transition and the NPC would hand over the work it had done to the PCCCC once it was set up.
TIPS economist Muhammed Patel agreed and said an entity such as the PCCCC was required to ensure that the various policy tools available to support the just transition were effectively coordinated and implemented.
“You really need an entity that is dedicated to the just transition. In South Africa, because of the fragmented nature of economic policymaking and the potential for conflicting mandates, there is need for one entity to really drive and monitor this,” Patel said.
South African Renewable Energy Masterplan convener Mike Levington, who represents business on energy matters at various forums, argued that, besides establishing an institutional champion, South Africa’s just transition also required greater definition, as well as a common vision and plan.
He warned against conflating the just energy transition with the just transition, arguing that, while renewable energy could play a catalytic role, it was also but one component of the broader transition to a more sustainable and equal society.
“The challenge for business is that the transition requires a transition in mindset. If you look at the way business has dealt with the transition to [racial] inclusiveness, it would be fair to say that it was more about compliance, rather than being a social partner. Clearly, the just transition requires a very different view.”
That said, government also needed to provide a vision that was supported with plans, policies and regulations that would help facilitate the investments required to support the transition.
“If we have a proper plan that everyone agrees to and we are all pointing in the right direction . . . then a just transition become an opportunity for the country, not a risk. But if we don’t have a plan, then it does become a risk and it then becomes much easier for business to drive handbrake on, rather than to push the accelerator,” Levington added.
Essop said that, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, there was also a unique opportunity for South Africa to integrate the just transition into its economic recovery packages.
“The solutions we pursue during the recovery period, have to be solutions that are sustainable beyond the pandemic and deal with the multiple crises that we are facing and be directed towards building resilience in the economy and ensuring justice.”