Job creation in climate change

The campaign is unlike most environmental movements in that it has gone to the grassroots to begin its work and hopes to get social support to leverage the government into ensuring climate jobs.

Launched in 2011, it is a research and advocacy project developed jointly by more than 40 key components of the labour and social movements, and other civil society formations that recognise the merit of simultaneously addressing unemployment and climate change.

Brian Ashley, one of its organisers, said it is important that the poor and working class are involved. “The issue of climate change is removed from their daily reality unless they live on the banks of a river that floods.”

It was therefore critical for any climate change campaign to get traction with “ordinary people”, he said.

The movement achieves this through giving people solutions, rather than by telling them a catastrophe was happening.

“If you do that, they bury their heads in the ground,” he said. “There is huge potential for creating jobs by moving towards a low-carbon economy.”

By building a big support base and having the social power, the campaign will be able to put pressure on the government to embrace a low-carbon economy.

“We are coming up against very powerful vested interests, so we need public support. Our plan is to root climate change in significant mass movements,” he said.

Union partnerships

Partnering with big worker unions have helped bring this plan to fruition — at their first climate conference in 2013, there were 94 organisations represented. The projects carried with these partnerships are in areas where jobs can be created for workers who might be losing jobs in the more traditional sectors, such as mining.

“Our focus is on the low-hanging fruits and demonstration projects. This shows the feasibility of what can be done and convinces people that there are jobs in climate change,” he said.

The planned retrenchment of 14 000 workers at Amplats is their latest iteration of this plan. When the mine announced the plans it also asked for expressions of interest for the creation of a 15MW renewable power plant.

“We said a co-operative should be created to create and run a renewable plant. The workers would therefore be taught new skills and have their jobs saved,” he said.

This could be done across the mining sector where traditional jobs were lost, but replaced by ones that increased the efficiency of mines.

Retrofitting for energy efficiency is being expanded to small municipalities, where unions are able to create new sources of employment while also mitigating the impact of carbon emissions.


The campaign has ambitious targets: 50% of electricity to be produced from renewable sources in a decade, in the process creating 150 000 new jobs; setting a 20% energy efficiency target for industry, creating 27 000 new jobs; 400 000 jobs in ecosystem management; 400 000 new jobs if a zero waste approach is adopted; and half a million jobs in organic and small-scale farming.

Ashley said: “It’s national, we have groups across the country, but it is embryonic and fragile. Our civil society is weak relative to the challenges we face, so we need to keep building up.”

This feature has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. Content has been independently sourced by the Mail & Guardian's Supplements editorial team.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sipho Kings
Sipho is the Mail & Guardian's News Editor. He also does investigative environment journalism.

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it

Press Releases

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations