Low-carbon, climate-resilient and just transitions can help South Africa achieve its climate and economic goals.

South Africa can build a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable economy while simultaneously responding to climate change. This is according to the World Bank’s Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) launched with South Africa’s Presidential Climate Commission in November 2022.

The report highlights key policies and investments needed to achieve the country’s climate goals through a low-carbon, climate-resilient and just “triple transition”.

The triple transition is broken down as follows:

  • A low-carbon transition: Harness investments in new technologies to address the long standing energy crisis, and significantly lower emissions of greenhouse gases. Low-carbon growth trajectory will also help to strengthen the country’s competitiveness, and reduce local air, water, and soil pollution that negatively impacts people, the environment, labor productivity, and food and water security.
  • A climate-resilient transition: To mitigate the impact of climate change on agriculture, cities, infrastructure, and people. Priority should be given to investments in irrigation, agronomic practices, sustainable land management, and ecosystem restoration.
  • A just transition: Poor people are more vulnerable to climate risks. The CCDR estimates that for each job eliminated in the shift to a low-carbon economy, two to three jobs could be created between 2022 and 2050 – but this will not necessarily take place in parallel. Workers will need to be supported during the transition and this can be done by strengthening social assistance, labour market intermediation, and reskilling and upskilling programmes. More support is also needed for micro-, small, and medium enterprises and for self-employed businesses (in both the formal and informal sectors).

Dr Crispian Olver, executive director of the Presidential Climate Commission, said, “As we work toward implementing our ambitious climate objectives, the difficult question remains how we uplift people and communities in the transition to a low emissions economy and ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable are not left behind as we resolve the tripartite challenges of inequality, poverty, and unemployment.”

The CCDR estimates that the cost of the triple transition would be R8.5 trillion between 2022 and 2050, of which R2.4 trillion would be needed before 2030.

“This report calls upon all of us to spur change, and build solid social compact, building-in just transition principles and practices into climate policy and planning. The findings are an important contribution and an early quantification of the investment costs in building climate resilience and implementing measures to mitigate the risks we face,” Olver added.

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