The fundamental importance of the coal value chain to the South African economy means that its dual crises required a consistent, strategic and whole-of-government response. This study aims to provide a holistic analysis of the value chain as the basis for developing more strategic options. It first outlines the scope of the coal value chain and its impact on the economy overall. It then describes the disruption in the electricity supply, and the impact of the climate emergency. Finally it reviews factors in the policy environment that made it more difficult to establish a coherent and strategic national response to the disruptions in the coal industry. Based on this analysis, the conclusions outline the implications for policy options.
As the reality of a coal transition and coal power decommissioning draw nearer, South Africa’s just transition plan is both urgent and glaringly absent. There is a pressing need to manage the impacts of the transition on workers and local economic development, particularly in coal-dependent regions and affected communities. A credible fact base is required, from which to make appropriate and broadly supported decisions. In this conceptual clearing, several specific political consensuses must be brokered to enable policy design and implementation as well as investment for a green and just transition. This policy brief speaks to the current policy vacuum, proposing steps to address it. First, it considers the implications of the coal transition for employment in South Africa, with reference to national policy and available research. It then seeks to characterise the key issues, points of contestation, and the current just transition/ employment policy vacuum. Finally, recommendations for the facilitation of shared understanding and consensus-building are outlined.
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