COSATU, South Africa’s largest trade union federation, has a plan to simultaneously tackle climate change and unemployment.
Until now, a recognition of the link between questions about climate crisis mitigation and other economic crises has largely been missing in African countries. Unions in particular have often been seen as the enemy of climate politics, especially in countries like South Africa which have large extractive industries and strong unions of miners and other workers. However, there has been a shift recently with more and more radical climate activists recognizing the necessity of getting unions on board. Unions on the other hand are also more frequently being convinced of the necessity of political projects like the Green New Deal, especially within the context of growing inequality and job losses.
South Africa has some not so-coveted titles: most unequal country in the world, 13th largest carbon emitter, and some of the highest rates of unemployment globally. Within this context, COSATU’s proposed interventions represent a flicker of hope in an otherwise dire picture for South Africa’s commitment to tackle both the triple threat of poverty, inequality, and unemployment, and the climate crisis. While the expanded proposition focuses on a range of struggling state-owned entities, the primary intervention relates to the dire situation at Eskom, the state-owned power utility.