South African Mineworkers’ Union Calls for Suspension of $8.5bn Climate Finance Pact
By Fatima Saka
The National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa, representing power utility workers, has called for the suspension of an $8.5 billion climate finance pact with some of the world’s wealthiest nations.
This is contained in a statement released on Monday, by the Union.
They have also requested further discussions on plans to restructure Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. into separate units, a move aimed at improving the utility’s performance amid ongoing power outages in the country.
Under the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), South Africa had agreed to shift away from coal-based electricity generation toward renewable energy sources, with financial support from Germany, France, the UK, the US, and the European Union. As part of this transition, Eskom closed its Komati coal-fired power plant last year, with more closures planned.
The National Union of Mineworkers is calling for additional consultations on the transition plan, citing concerns about potential job losses for up to 51,000 workers. They argue that there has been inadequate consultation with organized labor regarding Eskom’s restructuring, the development of the JETP, and the decommissioning of the Komati power station.
Criticism of the JETP has also come from South African Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who have expressed concerns about South Africa being used as a testing ground for a rapid transition to renewable energy. The funding partner countries are significantly ahead in their own energy transitions compared to South Africa.
The JETP, initially announced at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in 2021, is seen as a model for similar agreements being pursued with other countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam, and Senegal.
A recent report by South Africa’s Presidential Climate Commission blamed the government for poor communication and a lack of consultation with workers and communities affected by the Komati plant closure. It also noted that conflicting statements by Mantashe and Ramokgopa had caused confusion regarding the plant’s operational status.
While the transition to low-emission energy production is necessary, the union insists it must be fair and just for workers and their communities. They estimate that a rushed transition could result in the loss of approximately 25,000 direct jobs and 26,000 indirect jobs.
The union’s demands highlight the complex challenges involved in achieving a sustainable energy transition while safeguarding the interests of workers and communities.