The Just Transition in Africa Workshop on Clean Energy will be facilitated by Genesis Consulting, led by Dr. Marcela Tarzona and other professionals, at the Oxford Africa Conference 2023. The workshop will explore the challenges and opportunities of transitioning to a cleaner and more sustainable energy system in Africa, with a particular focus on South Africa, which heavily relies on coal for power and is currently facing power cuts.
South Africa is the world's seventh-largest coal producer, with an estimated reserve of 30 billion tons, and coal accounted for 25% of South Africa’s exports in 2020. It is also a significant contributor to the country's economy, accounting for 85% of the country’s electricity generation, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). However, coal mining and burning have significant negative environmental impacts, including air and water pollution, as well as contributing to climate change, accounting for 40% of its total greenhouse gas emissions.
There is increasing awareness, both locally and internationally, about the need for a just transition away from coal to cleaner energy sources such as solar and wind, globally and particularly in South Africa. This transition is not only necessary to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change, but also to improve public health by reducing air and water pollution.
It is critical to understand the implications of such a transition on South Africa. The country has recently suffered power blackouts that have negatively impacted its economy, and the coal mining sector directly employs 90,000 workers and supports at least 400,000 dependents, according to CEIC. In 2021, South Africa’s coal production and exports exceeded $18 bn.
The impact on the economy, the power sector, and the country’s workforce necessitates the need for a ‘just transition’. This includes providing alternative job opportunities and economic support for affected workers and communities, as well as ensuring that the transition is inclusive and equitable, particularly for historically marginalized groups such as women and indigenous people. It should also ensure that the country’s trade balance is not significantly affected. Another critical consideration is the cost of this transition, which is expected to run into tens of billions of dollars. Where will the funding come from? After investing such sums, what are the benefits and opportunities for South Africa?
This workshop highlights the approach taken to address the challenge of the just transition in South Africa. It is suitable for policymakers, civil society organizations, academics, and other stakeholders. The workshop will also discuss future steps to unlocking new opportunities and the potential impacts on Africa’s prosperity and development.