Employment vulnerability to climate change

By Rehana Dada

The Economic Development Department (EDD) and the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) have jointly commissioned a study on the impacts of climate change on employment, with the intention of addressing potential job losses that may result from measures to address climate change.  There are two outputs of the research process, the National Employment Vulnerability Assessment (NEVA) and the Sector Jobs Resilience Plan (SJRP).

As Mac Makwarela of DEA explained, the process is guided by the National Climate Change White Paper: “As we mitigate [climate change] there will be impacts on jobs, and we want to investigate that and see how we can balance the positive with the negative.  We want to address risks so that our interventions don’t compromise us as a country”.

NEVA analyses the impacts of mitigation and adaptation interventions on traditional economic sectors rather than sectors more commonly referred to in climate change research.  The economic sectors are: agriculture; mining and quarrying; manufacturing; electricity, gas and water supply; construction; wholesale and retail trade; transport, storage and communication; financial and business services; community and personal services.  Within the sectors, a number of sub-divisions or industries are considered.  For example, included within manufacturing, some of the industries are: food products, beverages and tobacco products; textiles, clothing and leather goods; and coke, refined petroleum products and nuclear fuel.

Economic modelling was done, based on existing data such as the Long Term Adaptation Scenarios and the Mitigation Potential Analysis, as well as available data from research centres such as the University of Cape Town’s Energy Research Centre and Climate Systems Analysis Group.

Some sectors show a benefit to employment and others show clear losses.  For example, electricity shows an increase in jobs largely because of growth in the renewables sector, while mitigation measures result in job losses for mining and steel. The modeling looked at best and worst case scenarios and produced aggregate results for the whole country, but also presents the data for different provinces.

Economist Antony Boting, a lead consultant in the research process, said: “The challenge for us is not looking too far in the future.  We want to look into the immediate future, but at the same time we have to look beyond 2020, and we do know that the economy is changing”.  He said that the NEVA will need to be updated and refined over time.

Once the vulnerability assessment is completed, Sector Jobs Resilience Plans can then be developed with the idea of “minimising the negative impacts and capitalising on the positive impacts”.

At a workshop in Pretoria in late September, stakeholders representing government departments, civil society, water boards, and industry discussed the first findings of the NEVA and made input into the report as well as the SJRP process.  Further input is invited through electronic media, and at further stakeholder engagements.

For more information please contact Kaemete Tsotetsi of the Economic Development Department: ktsotetsi@economic.gov.za.