Our Burning Planet


Climate crisis action by SA could create and support 1.8m green jobs by 2030

Climate crisis action by SA could create and support 1.8m green jobs by 2030
From left: Unsplash / Andreas Gucklhorn | Unsplash / Micah Hallahan | Skyline of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Dean Hutton / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Unsplash / Artem Zhukov | Unsplash / Max Bender | Cape Town CBD. (Photo: Flickr / Gilbert Sopakuwa) | Unsplash / Max Bender

A research report released on Tuesday by C40 Cities has found that ambitious climate action taken this decade in South Africa’s cities could, among others, support and create more than a million jobs from mitigation and another 700,000 from adaptation-related actions.

Building retrofits, electrification, clean energy, sustainable transport and urban nature-based solutions. These are some of the “shovel-ready climate action solutions” that South Africa’s cities can rapidly implement to ameliorate current impacts and prepare for future impacts of climate change, according to new research published on Tuesday by C40. 

However, the benefits go beyond environmental, as the organisation says if taken in this decade, these actions could support and create more than one million jobs from mitigation and another 700,000 from adaptation-related actions.

In a webinar on Tuesday, members of C40 – a group of 97 cities around the world that represents one-twelfth of the world’s population and a quarter of the global economy – and other panellists unpacked the new Creating local green jobs in South Africa report.

In the context of a disastrous and deteriorating economic situation, staggering levels of unemployment and the ever-looming threat of climate change, panel members pointed to the report, saying that by investing in a green and just recovery led by cities and towns, South Africa has an opportunity to create good local jobs while addressing the very urgent needs of climate change and putting the country on track to meet its climate commitments.

The key findings of the report note that capital investment of R570-billion per year for the next five years in urban centres would enable “ambitious climate action”. If these actions are taken this decade (through 2030) across urban centres in South Africa, it could:

  • Support and create more than 1.1 million jobs from mitigation actions in the sectors of buildings, power and transport.
  • Support and create an additional 700,000 jobs from adaptation actions, including nature-based solutions.
  • Surpass the South African 2030 climate target.

Fourteen babies and toddlers have starved to death in Nelson Mandela Bay in the past 15 months

The report notes that inaction is not without its costs, saying that “a delay of just five years could reduce by a third both the emissions reduction and the job creation potential by 2030”, which, put differently, means more than 385,000 fewer jobs by 2030 and the equivalent emissions of 48 million cars for a year. 

The jobs created, the report explains, stems “both from the delivery of the intervention (direct jobs, e.g. installation) and from the supply chain”. These range from jobs related to building interventions to actions aimed at emissions reductions. Of building interventions, the report notes that “building interventions, including electrification, can generate the greatest share of jobs by 2030”. 

In particular, it continues, “actions to retrofit people’s homes and build new high-energy-efficient buildings can create and support more than 560,000 and 342,000 jobs, respectively, equivalent to 78% of jobs from the climate mitigation actions”.

In a statement, Johannesburg mayor and C40 vice-chair Mpho Phalatse said “the transition to a green economy must be just, inclusive and equitable”.

“Cities are at the forefront of the fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment. Cities are also at the forefront of the climate emergency. We must tackle these challenges together. Green jobs can help to alleviate poverty whilst helping to build clean, healthy, sustainable and resilient communities. 

“We must ensure that green jobs go to those who need them the most – marginalised communities, women and the youth. Cities are already attracting investment and creating thousands of green job opportunities. With the support of national government and the private sector, we can go even further.”  

Phalatse’s colleague and neighbour to the north, Tshwane Mayor Randall Williams, said in a statement: “This year, Tshwane launched a jobs lottery which relies on artificial intelligence to offer employment to 9,000 jobseekers. The initiative is part of the City’s Expanded Public Works Programme.

“In the future, this type of programme will aim to incorporate ‘green jobs’, which not only support the livelihoods of workers, but also helps to build a liveable, resilient and inclusive city.

“These opportunities will be created in integrated waste management, community safety and greening, among others, and will aim to upgrade informal settlements, townships, industrial areas and open spaces, including parks. 

“Green jobs have the potential to transform lives and to transform our city,” said Williams.

Durban Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said in a statement: “I am committed to growing a sustainable, equitable and inclusive economy.

“The concept of green jobs is not only about saving the environment. This concept goes hand in hand with supporting my city’s vision for social justice by benefiting disadvantaged communities, women and the youth. These are the same communities prone to flooding and in need of support to become more resilient. 

“It is critical therefore that green jobs are designed to offer secure employment, safe working conditions and fair remuneration with the end goal to support the local economy, improve infrastructure and service delivery and enhance the quality of life for all residents.”

Back in Gauteng, Mayor Tania Campbell of Ekurhuleni said: “I’m proud that the City of Ekurhuleni has been recognised as a leader in training. It is critical that job creation initiatives are also coupled with skills training to increase the likelihood of beneficiaries securing employment opportunities in the longer term.

“Such training opportunities must also be targeted towards groups most in need – women, the youth and previously disadvantaged communities. This is one way we can ensure that the transition to a green economy is just. 

“Building a green economy not only creates opportunities for a better skilled and future-proof workforce – it helps to tackle climate change, improve the environment and support livelihoods,” said Campbell. 

At the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said in his prepared statement: “In our drive for energy security, actioned by our recent IPP tender and other projects, the City of Cape Town will create local green jobs by putting green energy on the grid and providing reliable electricity supply for economic recovery.

“At the same time, we will continue to invest in innovative green and hybrid infrastructure, such as our new catchment management approaches, and provide much-needed jobs through river-clearing programmes and other support for the ecosystem services our city relies on.”

Hastings Chikoko, regional director for Africa at C40 and a panellist on the webinar, said: “The research not only shows the potential for green job creation in South Africa, but also symbolises the potential for other African countries to harness the power of cities to unlock green jobs and realise a just transition”. OBP/DM


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Absa OBP

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Lothar Böttcher says:

    The future is green and it’s refreshing to see our mayors committing (in words…) “the transition to a green economy must be just, inclusive and equitable”.
    It’s also ironic that The Nature of Cities Festival is currently taking place globally (online) with too little participation from our continent imho. These networks must be nurtured. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 😉

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