Africa: Just Transition, Redux - Cosatu's Bid to Save Eskom, the Climate and South Africa


South Africa's most powerful trade union federation has offered the ANC a proposal: It can access PIC funds to pay off Eskom debt if the utility is not privatised and no jobs are lost. Among the conditions are a state-led renewables drive based on a 'just transition' for workers. The idea, on the face of it, is potentially game-changing -- it extends to all sectors of the economy and stares climate collapse square in the face. For the moment, it appears, the ANC is listening.

I. Ready

"The real choice is not jobs or environment. It is both or neither."

Back in the 1990s, when the Canadian union leader Brian Kohler uttered these words, members of the international labour movement were more concerned about the economic consequences of climate collapse than just about anyone in a government or corporate office. At the beginning of the decade, before the first global treaty on the reduction of carbon emissions had been drafted, the movement's intellectuals were talking about a "superfund for workers" -- a mechanism to offer financial support or reskilling options for labourers displaced by climate policies.

In that more innocent era, the foresight of the unionists must have sounded to...

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