493.1 Confronting climate catastrophe: The south African climate jobs campaign

Friday, August 3, 2012: 10:45 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Vishwas SATGAR , International Relations, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa
South Africa hosted the 17th UN-Conference of the Parties in December 2011 to address the climate crisis facing the world.  South Africa is the 13th highest carbon emitter in the world, with a firm commitment to invest in the largest coal fired power stations in the world. The abundance of coal in South Africa, predicted to last for 200 years, also makes this an easy policy choice for government. At the same time, South Africa has high levels of structural unemployment. This is estimated at 40% and has been worsened in the context of the global economic crisis with 1 million jobs being lost in the period 2009-2010.  In response progressive civil society established a campaign platform to reduce carbon emissions and address high unemployment through the creation of climate jobs. This paper traces the emergence, role and politics of the ‘1 million climate jobs campaign’ in South Africa.  It brings into view the alliances amongst civil society organisations (trade unions, climate justice ngos, academics and grass roots anti-capitalist movements), the capacity built for the campaign and the strategic practices of the campaign. Moreover, the paper highlights the impact, consequences and limits of the campaign before, during and after COP17. Central to the argument of this paper is how emancipatory political practice evokes utopian discourse to incite a new political imagination  as part of counter-hegemonic engagement with 17 years of neoliberalisation in post-apartheid South Africa. The ‘1 million climate jobs campaign’ in South Africa is an example of rethinking visions of work, the politics of production  and  climate justice from below.