Energy: Vavi warns on unjust transition to renewables
SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has called for urgent social dialogue on SA’s ‘inevitable’ energy transition from coal to renewable energy, warning that the country’s current framework will fail to deliver a just outcome for workers and poor communities. According to an Engineering News report, speaking at a seminar in Johannesburg convened under the theme ‘Unlocking a Just Energy Transition for SA, Vavi said not a single union failed to recognise that there would be a shift away from a carbon-based economy. However, a platform was required to allow workers and society to express their ‘fears’ about the transition, particularly in relation to job losses. Such a platform was also needed to build consensus on how the transformation of the energy sector could be used to benefit workers and communities directly, rather than only private energy investors. The National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), Vavi argued, remained the only platform for coordinating social dialogue between government, labour, business and communities. ‘So Nedlac has to be the main platform to ensure that parties do come together to reach a single understanding on the way forward in relation to the movement from carbon to renewables,’ he said. Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University co-director Professor Mark Swilling cautioned that there was a danger that the country could end up implementing an unjust transition, whereby the transition to a decarbonised energy system leaves poverty and inequality intact. ‘We are missing the opportunities for public and social ownership of renewable energy in a way that is far more inclusive than what is happening now,’ he said.