According to Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), South Africa is in a position where it has a multitude of policies, processes and interventions that could be leveraged towards affecting a just transition to a green economy.
During a development dialogue webinar hosted by the organisation on February 17, senior economist Gaylor Montmasson-Clair explained the broad dimensions necessary for a just transition.
These include procedural justice to ensure an inclusive process; distributive justice that looks at impact - who pays and who benefits; and restorative justice, which considers part damage to communities and the environment, with a focus of rectifying such damage.
He indicated that while all three were important and mutually reinforcing, just transition discussions in the country have mainly focused on the first two areas.
However, in light of South Africa’s historical context and still-embedded inequality in society, Montmasson-Clair advised that South Africa pay particular attention to restorative justice.
He stressed that it was not only up to government to facilitate a just transition, but also business, labour and society.
Having highlighted the different dimensions of a just transition, Montmasson-Clair further provided an extensive overview of the existing labour market, industrial and social protection policies, which could be harnessed to contribute towards a just transition.
In agreeing that the country has existing programmes, policies and processes in place, GreenCape CEO Mike Mulcahy outlined the potential to use a cluster approach to foster a just transition.
GreenCape has been working with stakeholders to understand and then remove barriers to commercially viable projects across energy, water and waste. He highlighted some examples of where such an approach had led to the accelerated uptake of small-scale embedded generation (SSEG) in municipalities.
Mulcahy stated that key learnings have pointed to the fact that, in a green economy, the economics change fast, and so, working together provides an opportunity to understand the changing economy to unlock investment and much-needed job opportunities.
He added that GreenCape was working towards establishing a green cluster in Mpumalanga to support the province’s transformation.
On the jobs front, Youth Employment Service (YES) CEO Tashmia Ismail-Saville discussed government, labour and business' focus on tacking the country’s youth unemployment challenge.
Based on her experience and interaction with companies, YES had yet to prioritise placing youth in low-carbon sectors. Ismail-Saville pointed out the importance of all parties working together to unlock the potential of small businesses in local communities – particularly in taking up new opportunities associated with the transition.
A failure to achieve this would only entrench inequalities. Ismail-Saville noted that training was an important part of investing towards achieving a just transition as well as getting small, medium-sized and microenterprises involved in the green economy.
She further highlighted the need for policy certainty around the ease of doing business, along with incentives to drive investment and increase employment of youth.
GreenMatter programmes director Janavi da Silva took up the issue of skills development within the context of a just transition and said the shortage of critical skills in the environmental space was concerning.
She believed there was an urgent gap that needed to be filled with regard to youth employment and skills development in matching the needs of businesses with the supply of youth employment.
In addition, through GreenMatter work, she found that there was a shortage of opportunities for young people in long-term employment.
Through advocacy, skills intelligence, stakeholder engagement, marketing and communications, and professional and leadership, GreenMatter continues on its drive to increase the employment potential of young graduates and entrepreneurs in the green economy space.
Meanwhile, the dialogue related to points raised on Wednesday by Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Barbara Creecy during the debate on the State of the Nation Address (SoNA).
In noting that Eskom, South Africa’s largest greenhouse-gas emitter, has committed in principle to net zero carbon emission by 2050, the President during SoNA stressed the importance of the work of the Presidential Climate Change Commission that will meet for the first time this month.
Creecy reiterated that this commission must develop a clear plan to take this from being an aspirational commitment to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy and society to the reality of new technology, new investment and above all new jobs.
The commission will provide the much-needed institutional mechanism to bring together government, civil society, business and labour to advise government on the just transition.
It will further leverage partnerships and collaboration across all relevant sectors to implement programmes that encapsulate the just transition in a coherent and coordinated manner.
In this regard, notably, Eskom this week announced that it would shortly release a call for proposals to repower and repurpose Komati power station in Mpumalanga. Studies to facilitate similar initiatives are under way for the Hendrina, Grootvlei and Camden power stations.
“Investment in the green economy and green technologies provides strategic advantages for our country: it opens access to new green financing opportunities; it offers the possibility of significant proven job creation; it has potential to localise production and services which will build small and medium enterprises and of course it enhances our long-term competitiveness while mitigating our transition risks,” Creecy stated.