#20 The Heart of Coal Country
In this episode, we dive into one of the biggest questions surrounding South Africa’s energy and climate crisis - how do we ensure a just energy transition for the people of Mpumalanga? Mpumalanga is the province most heavily dependent on coal for its economy and livelihoods. It accounts for 80% of all South Africa's coal production and 76% of all electricity, generated primarily from 12 major coal-fired power stations, out of the 18 in the country.
Many people of Mpumalanga have a love-hate relationship with coal, as while it brings jobs, it also brings devastating air, water and soil pollution, making it one of the most polluted places on Earth. Coal also drives economic path dependency, pushing out other economic activities. As a result, Mpumalanga has one of the worst unemployment rates in the country, with about half the population unemployed and half in poverty.
As the world moves away from coal, Mpumalanga faces an existential question: will the energy transition truly be just, creating a better future for them, or will they be left behind as the world moves forward to renewable energy?
This episode is hosted by the Climate Justice Coalition's general secretary, Alex Lenferna. He is joined by two inspiring journalists working on the cutting edge of climate and energy reporting. Andiswa Matikinca is an award-winning journalist who joined Oxpeckers in September 2018 to manage the Oxpeckers extractives digital tool, #MineAlert. Thabo Molelekwa is an award-winning health and environmental journalist with a focus on climate change and renewable energy, food security, nutrition, and HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Thabo and Andiswa worked together on a three-part investigative series exploring the challenges of the just energy transition in Mpumalanga. The series is linked in the show notes.