Greening South Africa will Create Jobs

Greening South Africa will Create Jobs

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The Green Jobs Report, issued in early December, gives the estimated direct employment potential of an unfolding greening South African economy: on average approximately 98 000 new direct jobs will be generated in the short term; almost 250 000 in the medium term and more than 462 000 jobs in the long term. The Green Jobs Report broadly focuses on opportunities within a new green economy and identifies that South Africa needs to be part of the worldwide trend.  As more and more businesses, households and the public sector begin to embrace green technologies and practices, the potential exists to create a substantial number of new job opportunities and to facilitate reskilling.

Acting with focus

The Report, which was researched and compiled by the Industrial Development Council (IDC), the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS), was the subject of a panel discussion at a side event during COP 17.

Commenting on the report, Economic Development Minister Ebraham Patel said: “We need to act with some focus and get our policies right; we must build the partnership so that we can unleash green entrepreneurship and take advantage of what’s available.  Our Green Economy Accord (number 4) states that the challenge is for us to do things differently and start a social partnership revolution.  In the case of solar water heating systems, for example, if we were to realise the potential of this, government can help to create a market; entrepreneurs must then seize the opportunity for local implementation.  We must also create jobs for people who have the skill but have lost their jobs and then we must, importantly, create receptiveness among South African consumers to take on board solar technology.

“We can’t walk away from coal but in the next 20 years we will be generating new energy; it’s about the future of the green energy.  We will work on technologies to become cleaner.

“Regarding the opportunities we have and our aim of finding ways to reduce our carbon emission, we are investigating and working with companies to bring about change.  For the transport of coal, for example, our challenge is to try and build rail lines and shift the movement of coal from trucks on the road to rail.”

Huge opportunities

Minister Gordon said South Africa needs to see the green economy as a huge opportunity but also recognise it as one that is part of a broader restructuring of the global economy.  “We need to find more effective economic models to address the issues of climate.  I compliment the authors of the report – it is an excellent contribution to policy making.  We must convert opportunities into actuality.  We live in a fascinating period when structural changes are taking place; what we have witnessed now as a result of the crisis is the inability of current economic models to create jobs and reduce inequality.  Greening the economy, therefore, is a huge opportunity.

“Structural incentives are going to be an important player in shepherding us into the greener economy.  Part of the competitiveness is the fact that we might well have trade rules that begin to cut out countries that don’t move fast enough.  Lastly, I think creating incentives – not just finance but also regulatory – will provide the right infrastructure; we currently spend billions of Rands in incentives but the challenge is how we direct those incentives and how we prioritise that spending?”

The green jobs market

The reason the report was needed was to provide an evidence base for policy to be determined in the future and to provide facts and figures that didn’t exist before.  The report was started from scratch and has researched the potential for jobs within certain sectors with the aim of assisting strategic planning for both government and the private sector.

The largest contribution to the new green jobs market will be associated with natural resource management due to the rich endowment that South Africa has in terms of solar and wind power particularly.  Other jobs will be created in green building activities, recycling (formal economy), waste to energy and in building, construction and installation, from production of batteries for electric vehicles, from the Bus Rapid Transport system (BRT), from soil and land management, and from operations and maintenance linked to renewable energy generation and, particularly in the short-term, soil, land and biodiversity and eco-management being an initial driver of new jobs.  As projects are progressively commissioned, manufacturing operations for equipment, parts and components in the solar, recycling, BRT, waste to energy and electrical vehicle industry, biofuel industry, etc will be created.  As the report does not include multiplier effects and indirect jobs estimates, the 460 000 jobs total would be much, much higher.

“Key success factors are needed to realise this job potential,” said Jorge Maia, one of the Green Jobs Report authors.  “Without them, we won’t achieve the 460 000 jobs.   We need a policy and regulatory environment, the private sector has a major role to play and we need regional cooperation from SADC and the African continent or the opportunity will be limited.”

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