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Fakir is interim executive director of the African Climate Foundation –

By Saliem Fakir

‘Justice’ in the Just Transition

19th July 2024

The concept of ‘just’ in the Just Transition, associated with processes such as Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs), should not be viewed as a splendid island of bliss from which justice... 

Energy transitions and stranded economies

21st June 2024

In the context of African economies and the phasing out of fossil fuels, the issue is not about stranded assets per se, but stranded economies. This phenomenon is playing out in Europe, where... 

Climate and development investment platforms as tools for transformation

17th May 2024

It takes a while but, slowly, one gets to see the possibility of things. Climate action has long been the mainstay of a specific tradition, which is based on the assumption that, if you throw... 

The age of anxiety and turbulence

12th April 2024

A range of statements echoed through the chambers of the Munich Security Conference recently, and etched on everyone’s face was anxiousness about how the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato)... 

Debt, climate change and economic transformation

22nd March 2024

Debt is never free lunch, even if it is for the cause of climate change. Debt’s relation is defined by what the creditor demands as the rate of return in what the sociologist George Simmel would... 

Climate change post COP 28

16th February 2024

You must have felt a bit of a daze with the cacophony of announcements at the twenty-eighth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – or COP 28 –... 

The value of tacit knowledge for economic success

26th January 2024

Michael Polanyi, the brother of the famous Karl Polanyi (the writer of The Great Transformation), says in his book, Tacit Knowledge, that “we can know more than we can tell”. He brought to the fore... 

Of policy wonks, Utopians and realists

15th December 2023

Policy wonks like me are in the business of persuasion and perhaps a little grandstanding. The picture of the world we want has to be a different one from the status quo. Utopias can display... 

Fractured trade, inflation and prospects for climate action

17th November 2023

The world is in a very different place to where it was when the World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into being in 1995: geopolitics and geoeconomic fragmentation are on the rise, and we are seeing... 

Climate summits are about both reality and unreality

13th October 2023

Climate gatherings are traditional stomping grounds where calls for radical change can be met with lukewarm or whimsical responses, but you can be left with the illusion of progress having been... 

Technocene – the age where technology takes over the world

15th September 2023

The concept of ‘technocene’ is not novel; in fact, there are lots of writings on this concept. The Technocene age holds the premise that we are not in the Anthropocene age any longer  – technology... 

Transitions and the politics of national sovereignty

18th August 2023

One of my favourite childhood authors was the science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke, the author of 2001 Space Odyssey – which was later turned into a movie – who wrote: “For every expert, there is... 

Antidevelopment – the paradox of development

7th July 2023

It has been said by some that those who desire to ensure we have a more sustainable planet and oppose fossil fuels are antidevelopment. Indeed, the antidevelopment argument against... 

The problem with dogma

16th June 2023

“Bad ideas matter. They have their own coherence and own power”. These words are attributable to Timothy Snyder, a US historian who specialises in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, the... 

Dullness versus the creative: prospects for development and human wellbeing

19th May 2023

Africa’s problem is not fossil fuels or the continent’s dependence on raw land and minerals but the lack of capacity to transition from these dependences into something else. This is a matter... 

Micro-arguments and process of large change – Part 2

21st April 2023

This article is a continuation of the last instalment of this column, which concluded by highlighting the transformative power of a single legal victory in the US – the granting, in 1973, of the... 

Micro-arguments and the process of large change – Part 1

10th March 2023

‘All men (women) are intellectuals  . . . but not all men (women) have in society the function of intellectuals.” – Gramsci. It seems incremental change, or what one would call the reformist... 

Is Eskom a dead project?

17th February 2023

“Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there.” – Seneca, letter XXVIII. Our coal situation is like the satirical movie Don’t Look Up where a... 

Green hydrogen - reflections on the new green gold

20th January 2023

South Africa had its first investor and policy summit in Cape Town in late November when President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the hydrogen conference. Hydrogen is the most common element in the... 

Lost and damaged: reflections on COP27

16th December 2022

Yes, I was in Sharm El Shaik, Egypt, attending the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was a busy place of deliberations and... 

Value of stability for political and economic progress

11th November 2022

Stability can be a recurrent fable that we tell ourselves that we have in order to preserve the idea of the ‘good’ life – sometimes at the expense of others. Stability is a product of a utopian... 

Extraction: it’s everywhere and on everything

7th October 2022

“We live not only in a market economy but more generally in a market society – that is to say, a space of civilisation where all human relations and similarly where all human relationships with the... 

Europe’s gas addiction undermining Africa’s energy transition

9th September 2022

The sad thing about the Russia-Ukraine war is that the 1.5 oC-aligned energy transition looks set to be interrupted once again. We are here today with this troubling predicament of having done... 

Reflections on ESG, net zero and corporate citizenship

12th August 2022

It is important to locate environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals and net-zero targets in the context of corporate citizenship today. There will be some who would say that corporate... 

Inflation, climate change and fossil fuels – we enter a new crisis

29th July 2022

Who would have thought that we would enter a new inflationary era? Even US Federal Reserve chairperson Janet Yellen was caught off guard by the sudden turn upward inflationary trajectory. It was... 

Africa can decarbonise faster than the rest of the world

3rd June 2022

It is oxymoronic to talk of Africa decarbonising – with the exception of South Africa and a few other countries, the continent has the lowest per capita carbon footprint. A recent analytical piece... 

The basis for good judgment: can we really know?

6th May 2022

Over the past decade, I have been engaged in an inquiry into the nature of judgment, given that I have had the privilege of setting up new entities and programmes over the course of my two-decade... 

Ukraine and the geopolitics of energy

8th April 2022

“It takes two mirrors for the correct image of one’s self” (Diary of Patricia Highsmith, 1968). By now we are all aware of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and what has happened to our world.  Several... 

Observations on Africa’s climate and development nexus

11th March 2022

It has always been maintained and will continue to be maintained that the route to curing the climate challenge in Africa is to define a new pathway for development. That pathway has to be aligned... 

A significant year for climate in South Africa

11th February 2022

The year 2021 should be remembered as a turning point for climate change policy and diplomacy in South Africa. It is hard to recall a time when so many players felt that the game had been lifted... 

The Just Energy Transition Transaction in South Africa

21st January 2022

Sometimes the ‘impossible’ seems far-fetched and unrealistic, but it can be on the cusp of happening, even if it still has some journey to cover. This is illustrated by the history of the Just... 

Some takeaways from COP26

3rd December 2021

We are in what we may call slow burn and incremental shock of climate vulnerability – recent events tell a story of increased frequency of extreme weather patterns, yet the world struggles to... 

New economic frontier for climate change action

26th November 2021

Last year, marked a tectonic shift in the climate change arena, and this was spurred on by the recognition by the European Union (EU) that no crisis should be spoilt as Europe moved to change the... 

Organising for climate change: the ‘two cultures’ problem

22nd October 2021

Ulrich Beck wrote: “One can possess wealth but one can be afflicted by risks; they are, so to speak, ascribed by civilisation . . . Risk society is a catastrophic society” (Risk Society: Towards A... 

The need for grit – industrialism in Africa

10th September 2021

Extractive industries offer no long-term solution for countries that continue to rely on their natural resources as levers for an economic boost; when a commodity boom end, the countries will slide... 

Of insurrection, malls and hunger

27th August 2021

We have been made to believe the narrative that things were under control When, in July, looting and rioting broke out in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, we were told that the country was in... 

Intersectional issues in renewables: the race debate in the energy sector

16th July 2021

We must guard against the idea that green means socially responsible and equitable. Green and optimum social outcomes are not synonymous; therefore, a debate about intersectional issues relating to... 

The private versus the public: living within the hierarchical system

18th June 2021

Societies that are most vulnerable to economic piracy need countervailing forces to protect them from those who deliberately pursue actions intended to maximise their own gain at the expense of the... 

Gas-exporting countries in Africa and the problem of a displacement equivalent

14th May 2021

The public discourse around gas is intensifying. Climate activists have now made gas – which has been touted as being better than coal and a necessary transitional fuel –  the target of their next... 

Climate finance and the political economy of finance

9th April 2021

In his book, Feline Philosophy, which is about what cats can teach humans, John Gray points us to a few lessons. One of these is pertinent to what I discuss in this article: beware of anyone who... 

The tragedy of abundant resources

12th March 2021

The coming into being of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) is giving momentum to an idea that has been very long in the making – a unified position around trade, whose importance will... 

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