By Wallace Mawire
Zimbabwe needs to start discussions on what happens to workers in the coal mining sector and downstream activities when renewable energy becomes widespread and export markets for coal start to diminish.
According to Tendayi Marowa, Vice-Chairman of the Business Council for Sustainable Development Zimbabwe (BCSDZ) technical committee on energy and climate change, there is need to start serious dialogue on mainstreaming renewable energy options.
Marowa’s remarks come in the wake of his recent attendance and participation at the Conference of Parties (COP) 24, held in Katowice, Poland. COP24 was held in Katowice, in the heart of the coal-dominated region of Silesia
Following the conference, he also made a presentation at the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement’s climate change department.
According to Marowa, around 80% of Poland’s electricity currently comes from coal. At the conference, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said: “There is no plan today to fully give up on coal.”
However, despite this scenario, according to Marowa, the Silesia Declaration adopted at the COP 24 looked at the just transition of workers from fossil fuel jobs to green jobs.
Globally, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), call for worldwide action among governments, business and civil society to end poverty and create a life of dignity and opportunity for all. For instance SDG 3 focuses on Good Health and Wellbeing, SDG 7- Affordable and Clean Energy, SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth and SDG 13 – Climate Action.
COP 24 put into perspective the transition experiences highlighting the case of Essen. Essen is the central and second largest city of the Ruhr, the largest urban area in Germany. Its population of 583,393 makes it the ninth largest city of German.
In Essen, coal mines that used to employ 10,000 people are now museums. In this case, Marowa says that Zimbabwe, a country reliant on power generation from coal especially from Hwange power station, should now be looking at other climate-friendly power generation options apart from coal.
It is reported that former Essen workers were employed elsewhere but some are still
unemployed. Unemployment in Germany is 5% but in the City of Essen it is 12%.
Kudzai Ndidzano, Climate Change Compliance Officer at the Climate Change Management department, said the COP24 Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration, stresses that just transition of the workforce and the creation of decent work and quality jobs is crucial. This will ensure an effective and inclusive transition to low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development.
It recognises the challenges related to the transition from fossil fuels and high emitting industries and the importance of ensuring a decent future for workers impacted by the transition.
“Social dialogue and the engagement of the workforce is important in nationally determined contributions, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies and adaptation planning processes,” Ndidzano said.
He concurred that Zimbabwe needs to start discussions on what happens to workers in coal mining and downstream activities when renewable energy becomes widespread and export markets for coal diminish.
According to Ndidzano, Zimbabwe and many other developing countries have not yet adopted any of
the declarations. He, however , said consultations on their implications on national development are in progress.
“Key sectors of industry should demonstrate leadership by investing in innovation and research to provide smarter and more effective solutions for mitigation and to build resilience,” Marowa said.