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Kicking the World’s Coal Habit

Malango was interviewed by science journalist and author Bianca Nogrady for WIRED magazine.

"Novel climate-financing deals are promising to shut off dirty energy plants in developing countries and retrain their staff to work in the green economy."

Read excerpts from the article below.

Image © Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg/Getty Images

'South Africa came into the JETP agreement with a reasonably mature plan for a just energy transition, focusing on three sectors: electricity, new energy vehicles, and green hydrogen. Late last year, it fleshed that out with a detailed Just Energy Transition investment plan.

Specifically, the plan centers on decommissioning coal plants, providing alternative employment for those working in coal mining, and accelerating the development of renewable energy and the green economy. It is a clearly defined but big task.

"South Africa’s coal mining and power sector employs around 200,000 people, many in regions with poor infrastructure and high levels of poverty. So the “just” part of the “just energy transition” is critical", says climate finance expert Malango Mughogho, who is managing director of ZeniZeni Sustainable Finance Limited in South Africa and a member of the United Nations High-Level Expert Group on net-zero emissions commitments.

“People are going to lose their jobs. Industries do need to shift so, on a net basis, the average person living there needs to not be worse off from before," she says. This is why the project focuses not only on the energy plants themselves, but also on reskilling, retraining, and redeployment of coal workers.

In a country where coal is also a major export, there are economic and political sensitivities around transitioning to renewables, and that poses a challenge in terms of how the project is framed.

"Given the high unemployment rate in South Africa as well … you cannot sell it as a climate change intervention,” says Deborah Ramalope, head of climate policy analysis at the policy institute Climate Analytics in Berlin. “You really need to sell it as a socioeconomic intervention."'

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