The Energy Research Centre, TIPS, IDDRI and Climate Strategies invite participants to a symposium on a just coal transition in South Africa to be held on 27 February 2019 at the Vineyard Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa (9am-6pm).

The coal sector globally faces competition from the falling costs of alternative energy resources, air quality regulations in large coal-using countries, the implementation of climate policy, and financial divestment from the sector. In South Africa, the sector has seen stagnant output over the past several years, declining investment, increasing prices, and falling employment levels. Already, alternative options in the electricity sector are cheaper than new coal-fired power plants, and the costs of new renewable energy technologies are approaching the existing running costs for coal-fired power stations.

Such pressures raise questions about whether an economic strategy built on coal mining and coal-fired power creates systemic risks for South Africa and for coal-dependent regions, such as Mpumalanga. A continuing reliance on coal may have deleterious impacts on the South African economy if global demand for coal declines, and many trade-offs between coal mining and other sectors require careful balancing. Maintaining a reliance on coal is furthermore precarious in light of global decarbonisation strategies. How to manage South Africa’s ‘just transition’ and the socio-economic and labour implications of phasing out coal extraction require careful thought and political support.

The symposium will examine the risks and opportunities facing South Africa’s coal regions and will explore the requisite planning and processes needed to mitigate the distributional impacts of the energy transition on workers, firms, communities and government.

This symposium brings together researchers, policy makers and government, unions, and industry from major coal producing countries – India, South Africa, China, Germany, Poland, Australia, the UK, the US, and Indonesia – to share experiences of coal transitions globally.  The agenda will cover the following:

1. What can South Africa learn from historical and current coal transitions?

2. How should the country position itself to optimize its existing assets while developing an economic trajectory that minimises poverty and inequality, and protects livelihoods and coal communities?

3. What lessons can be learned from global experiences with managing coal transitions? What policies can be used to promote a just transition through ensuring decent work and building inclusive and resilient economies? How have other coal regions implemented worker transition schemes and regional diversification strategies?