Numsa accuses Greenpeace of insulting workers

Solar panels convert the sun's energy into electrical power. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Solar panels convert the sun's energy into electrical power. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Cape Town - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has blasted environmental organisation Greenpeace over its position on renewable energy.

Last week Greenpeace criticised a Numsa court application for an interdict, lodged to block the signing of 27 renewable energy independent power production contracts with Eskom.

Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe postponed the signing of the agreement, but Greenpeace has called for a faster shift to renewable energy.

READ: Greenpeace hammers Numsa over IPP interdict

Numsa took exception to the organisation's call.

"With the confidence of the ignorant, Greenpeace is accusing Numsa of sabotaging renewable energy in favour of coal and, in the process, standing in the way of progress. Numsa takes great exception to this kind of wilful misrepresentation of its positions on renewable energy," said Numsa acting national spokesperson Phakamile-Hlubi Majola.


Numsa argued that it had a progressive policy on adaptation to climate change and renewable energy, and accused Greenpeace of "insulting" workers.

"If Greenpeace cared to actually engage us instead of insulting workers and their families, they might realise that, what we are demanding, is that the government must follow the guidelines for a just transition because they give effect to the 2015 Paris Accord, which South Africa signed up for."'

The National Development Plan of 2012 calls for 20 000MW (megawatts) of renewable electricity and the decommissioning 11 000MW of coal-fired power stations by 2030.

READ: Last-minute court bid blocks IPP signing

At the moment, Eskom's 13 coal-fired plants produce 34 952MW. The nuclear-powered Koeberg plant produces 1 830MW.

The company has invested in two wind farms and said that the Klipheuwel system had a capacity of 3MW, while the Sere Wind Farm in Vredendal in the Western Cape had a capacity of 100MW.

Job growth in the renewable energy sector. (Irena)

Numsa also said it doesn't believe that renewable energy projects could be job creators.

"We have heard these empty promises before. The majority of the existing renewable energy companies do not employ large numbers of workers, compared to Eskom.

"And our experience is that they certainly do not offer the same salary, benefits or an improvement in working conditions. Numsa will not be misled into supporting a policy which is potentially disastrous for workers and their families," said Majola.

Largest employer

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, employment in the global renewable energy sector experienced a marginal increase of 1.1% in 2017 to 9.8 million people.

The largest employer is the solar photovoltaic industry, which employs 3.1 million, up 12%, though most of those are located in China.

The organisation attributed losses in the fossil fuel sector to overcapacity, consolidation, substitution, and production technologies.

READ: Green power won't close coal stations

The department of energy said that decommissioning would go ahead irrespective of whether renewable energy projects were ready or not.

"Decommissioning is going to happen, whether there are renewables or not. We don't believe decommissioning is linked to the introduction of the new [renewable] power plants," acting deputy director general of policy and planning at the Department of Energy, Thabanga Audat told City Press.

Greenhouse gases, largely emitted by burning fossil fuels, are widely acknowledged as the cause of climate change.

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC), between 1880 and 2012, global temperatures increased by 0.85°C.

Scientists believe that, if global warming is limited to under 2°C from pre-industrial times, the worst aspects of climate change can be avoided.

'Catastrophic climate change'

The UNIPCC asserts that sea levels rose by 19cm - from 1901 to 2010 - as a result of ice melting and glacial retreat.

"To avoid catastrophic climate change, we need to work to limit warming to 1.5°C to protect future generations. This means that we need to aim for 100% renewable energy by 2050. There is no time to waste, and the just transition to renewable energy-based jobs instead of coal, must begin immediately in order to retrain and upskill workers," said Happy Khambule, Greenpeace Africa's senior political advisor.

Numsa argued that Greenpeace was intent on hurting workers through pushing for renewable energy transformation.

"They seem to be nothing more than cheerleaders for captains of industry who are hell bent on destroying the livelihood of thousands of workers and their families, in the name of so-called sustainable development," said Majola.

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