This working paper unpacks the impacts of a transition away from coal on affected communities in South Africa. It takes a multi-layered approach highlighting the economic, social, and environmental impacts coal has had to date and the implications of a transition on communities. Sections 2, 3 and 4 discuss the economic, socio-economic and environmental impacts of coal-related activities and their closure on communities. Section 5 concludes with policy implications.
The potential for biomass supply chains to provide alternative employment opportunities for people currently employed in coal trucking is vast. Side tipper trucker jobs are a low-hanging fruit as they are used both for the transportation of coal and the largest source of sustainable biomass in South Africa, namely invasive alien plants. Almost 75% of the current coal jobs could be directly transitioned to biomass transport via side tipper trucks. In addition, the biomass supply chains considered in this study could supply over 600 superlink driver jobs. About 480 superlink trucks would be required, which means some of the current coal side tipper trailers would have to be converted to flatbeds. More than 300 tanker driver jobs could furthermore be provided by the biomass supply chain.
This report is part of the Making Sense of Employment in South Africa's Just Energy Transition project. TIPS and the WWF South Africa, with the support of GIZ, are implementing an initiative to support policymaking for South Africa's just transition. This focuses on employment and the relevant challenges and opportunities in the country's just energy transition.
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Exploring alternative options for coal truckers in a biomass supply chain - Highlights
The energy shift will result in a reduction in coal use, and thus a reduction in coal transportation, which currently provides employment for approximately 4000 truck drivers. Given South Africa's large biomass feedstock base and parallels in coal and biomass hauling operations, coal transporters may be able to find alternate livelihoods by hauling sustainable biomass for emerging green industries such as manufacturing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Establishing nationwide biomass supply chains could result in nearly 7 500 trucking jobs, over half of that (about 3 800) in coal producing regions, providing coal haulers an alternative option.
Almost 3 000 trucker jobs in the coal regions could be for side tipper truck drivers, meaning that almost 75% of the current coal hauling jobs could be directly transitioned to biomass hauling. In addition to the jobs saved in refueling and truck maintenance, biomass supply chains in coal districts could result in the creation of approximately 400 support jobs.
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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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