The Presidential Climate Commission (PCC) is expected to hold public consultations on the country’s move towards decarbonisation and the just energy transition next year.

This was revealed by PCC deputy Chairperson Valli Moosa in his address to the annual national summit of the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac).

The South African economy remains heavily reliant on burning carbon fuels like coal for electricity to power, amongst others, manufacturing, farming and mining – causing some 41% of the country’s carbon emissions.

Moosa said the country’s reliance on coal could have an economic impact on many sectors.

“[T]he climate transition is…likely to have negative social and economic impacts, particularly on workers involved in the coal value chain as it downsizes, and communities in coal mining areas where limited other economic opportunities exist.

“The PCC plans to meet directly with those affected like coal miners who have already lost jobs, workers in coal-fired power stations who are understandably feeling insecure, as well as members of surrounding communities that are dependent on mining activities to support their livelihoods,” he said.

The PCC deputy chairperson added that consultations would also take place with people who have already been affected by climate change events such as flooding and drought.

The consultations, he said, will lead up to a national conference on the just energy transition which is expected to be held in March next year.

“Our intention is to hand over a report on the just transition to the government and other social partners. Finding common ground in the PCC will require a lot of energy from all parties, and in the past year we have all done to the best of our ability, but we must do more. The climate transition has serious long-term development and economic impacts, and decisions about the path we follow must involve everyone that is affected”.

The pace of a just transition

Moosa warned that although the move towards a low-carbon emissions economy remains an important developmental and economic imperative, the transition must be made at a pace best suited for the country.

“If we move too fast, we will devastate high-emitting economic sectors and jobs before we have built up capacity in other sectors. If we move too slowly, we will suffer trade restrictions on our emissions intensive products and miss out on the technological innovation and investment that underpins long-term economic competitiveness and jobs.

“However, let me be clear: the pace at which we decarbonise must be our decision, made in our own economic interests,” Moosa said.

Moosa said despite some of the challenges that may arise during the transition towards a greener economy, “significant opportunities” will come to fruition as well.

“We have some of the best renewable energy resources in the world. We have significant untapped deposits of the minerals required for the future global green economy – the platinum group metals (PMGs), iron and steel, manganese, copper, lithium, cobalt, and rare earths metals.

“We are also well positioned to produce green hydrogen with indigenous technologies at prices than are more competitive than other countries. The good news is that a future green economy will create more jobs in new low-carbon sectors than are lost in declining fossil fuel sectors”.

Source: South African Government News Agency