South Africa must end its coal habit. But it's at odds about when and how

2 weeks 6 days ago
Over 90% of South Africa's electricity comes from coal-fired power stations. Shutterstock

South Africa’s power utility Eskom is in crisis. In recent weeks, this has been brought home to South Africa’s 58 million citizens as major power cuts hit the country. The blackouts have renewed focus on the power utility’s economic and technical problems. But Eskom’s problems point to the much bigger issue of a country struggling to map out a new energy regime – one that reduces its very high levels of dependency on coal in a way that doesn’t devastate people’s lives.

South Africa is highly dependent on coal – almost 90% of its energy comes from coal-fired power stations. The urgency of change is clear on both global and local levels. Mining and burning coal is one of the most destructive activities on the planet. It represents an immediate threat to all forms of life and to scarce supplies of water, the degradation of arable land and toxic pollution of the air and water with extremely negative health impacts.

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First ever global scientific eating plan forgets the world's poor

2 weeks 6 days ago
The Mediterranean diet. Foxys Forest Manufacture/Shutterstock

A team of 37 world-leading scientists from 16 countries have just released the world’s first ever scientific eating plan. The “planetary health diet” is designed to be healthier for people and more environmentally friendly.

The team warns that the way we eat now threatens both our health and the long-term survival of the planet. They say the current food system dangerously overproduces greenhouse gases, misuses fertiliser, and causes large-scale food wastage and massive land degradation.

Their solution is to shift to a diet that transforms this damaging food system. This diet would sustainably feed up to 10 billion people by 2050 and avert about 11 million premature adult deaths a year due to cardiovascular disease and other non-communicable diseases.

The diet sounds like a silver bullet, but we have found it to be slightly problematic. It doesn’t recognise the enormous differences across the world when it comes to food consumption and production systems.

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Why a guaranteed jobs scheme in South Africa would pay for itself

3 weeks ago
South Africa has one of the worst rates of youth unemployment in the world. EPA/Nic Bothma

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa posed the key question: has South Africa built a society where the injustices of the past no longer define the lives of the present?

The answer is clearly no.

Among the biggest injustices is unemployment. Last year the unemployment rate worsened to over 27%. If discouraged workers are included, it’s as high as 40% – 9.3 million working-age South Africans. Youth unemployment is particularly dire: of 10.3 million 15 - 24 year-old South Africans, over 67% were unemployed.

This is one of the worst rates of youth unemployment in the world. Most of these unemployed youth – over three million – are categorised as NEET: “not in employment, education, or training”.

Wages from work remain by far the most important source of income for poor household members. The consequences of a vicious cycle of structural unemployment are devastating.

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