'Workers will lose their jobs'

THE National Union of Mineworkers is concerned that if the country switched from the current form of energy generation to a low-carbon economy the working class will be hardest hit.

THE National Union of Mineworkers is concerned that if the country switched from the current form of energy generation to a low-carbon economy the working class will be hardest hit.

NUM head of international relations Glen Mpufane voiced the concern atdiscussions over greenhouse gas emissions and climate change hosted by the World Wild Fund (WWF) in Johannesburg recently.

While he conceded that climate change was a reality and that measures needed to be put in place to save the planet,, Mpufane said jobs should not be shed.

"If we migrate to a low-carbon economy workers will become redundant and lose jobs. The coal sector would suffer most. This is the sector that is struggling in economically depressed areas such as Mpumalanga, which employs a lot of people in the mining industry," Mpufane said.

He said the NUM, with an estimated 320000 members, 20percent of whom are from the coal sector, was engaging with the government on ways to save jobs if the country switched to clean energygeneration.

At present SA generates electricity by burning fossil fuels such as coal.

Low-carbon energy is based on natural resources such as wind and solar.

"Climate change is a reality. There are no jobs on a dead planet. If we move to renewable energy such as biomass, wind, solar and so on, issues of skills development and job retention should receive attention," Mpufane said.

South Africa's electricity generation is at present dependent on the mining of coal, which is a labour-intensive activity.

The WWF hosted the discussions as part of the ongoing deliberations on how to deal with the threats of climate change that scientists say have caused a rise in global temperatures, which would lead to devastating natural disasters.

But Joan Yawitch of the Department of Environmental Affairs disagreed with Mpufane, saying alternative renewable energy would have a potential to create jobs.

Louise Naudé of WWF said the discussions were aimed at encouraging the world to cut down on carbon emissions to avoid a catastrophe.

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