A green economy grows jobs

There is no trade-off between a lower carbon economy and unemployment and poverty.

Insisting on a right of reply can sometimes be a bad move. Objecting to an article is fine, provided the better option is not keeping that right in a deep pocket.

Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa took exception to Richard Worthington’s article Too much wiggle room on emissions, a critique of the draft proposals the government intended submitting at COP21, the universally accepted make-or-break climate change conference, in Paris, at the end of this year. Her right of reply, “We are making headway towards an energy-efficient economy” (September 18) overflows with “wiggle room”.

A green economy grows jobsThe main theme of her rejoinder is the need to find the right balance between protecting humanity from climate change – the implicit assumption being that this means major economic restraint – and advancing the urgent economic needs of most South Africans, which requires the opposite condition of rapid economic growth.

In her words: “South Africa is a developing country and will continue to push for space to develop while transitioning to a lower carbon and climate-resilient economy and society. It is in our national interest to consider our developmental requirements and our obligations to reduce poverty, unemployment and inequality.”

There are at least four objections to these two short sentences.

First, South Africa’s transition is in the opposite direction to what the minister wants us to believe. Rather than a lower carbon economy, our government’s commitment is full steam ahead to an even more coal-based economy. Even without Kusile and Medupi – both of which will be among the largest coal-fired power stations in the world – we are already notorious for being one of the world’s top carbon polluters. And to this must be added the 2 500 megawatt of new coal generation capacity mandated by Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson. Coal remains firmly enthroned as resource king, notwithstanding the carbon it belches out in royal amounts. […]

Read the full article on the Mail&Guardian website