Just energy transitions – how do we get there?

The National Planning Commission is currently working on an exciting project to make headway in transitioning to an environmentally sustainable, climate change resilient, low-carbon and just society. The project is premised on Chapter 5 of the National Development Plan and thus seeks to bring about its implementation, through firstly reaching a common vision for the country and developing long-term pathways with concrete options for low-carbon economic and climate-resilient future through a series of facilitated dialogues.

 The National Development Plan (NDP) of 2012 is a long-term strategic plan for South Africa, which envisages that, by 2030, South Africa will have made headway in transitioning to a society that is just, inclusive, sustainable and resilient. Chapter Five of the NDP sets out a framework and guiding principles to ensure that by 2030 South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and sustainable economy and society will be well underway. The National Planning Commission has embarked on a process that gives effect to the proposals in Chapter Five of the NDP as a second phase of its work.

This second phase of work is to support implementation of the Plan. To this end, the National Planning Commission has designed a process to facilitate a series of dialogues by engaging with stakeholders from the key constituents, namely civil society, government, business and labour as well as affected communities to develop a social compact and ideally a common vision for an equitable and sustainable South Africa in 2050, and determine the best pathways to reach the end state. Sustainable Energy Africa, which worked with the NPC during the first phase, and One World Sustainable Investments have been working with the Commission on this process, designing and convening these workshops.

The process was kicked-off in May 2018 in Constitution Hill, Johannesburg at a high-level event which was attended by key government, civil society, labour, business and academia representatives. Subsequent to that, a consultation workshop was held in the Western Cape and Gauteng, and further workshops are planned to take place in the remaining provinces by early 2019. In addition to holding provincial workshops, the team will also hold bilateral and focus group discussions with affected mining communities, the Energy Intensive Users Group, SANEDI, key labour organisations, and expert groups. These local-level workshops aim to consult with all relevant stakeholders to co-develop a low-carbon future that is just for the country.

The pathways will focus on three key sectors energy, water and land-use including spatial and transport issues. Whilst climate change must be addressed, the primary focus of a just transition will be to address the triple challenges facing South Africa of unemployment and job losses as a result of the transition, poverty and inequality. Trade-offs and compromises will need to be addressed by the country, to minimize the losses. While government will play the lead in ensuring that a just energy transition takes place, it is pivotal that all sectors of society align their interests to ensure that this is a collaborative and inclusive effort.

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