Yellen visits coal town to wrap up South Africa trip
U.S Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen concluded her tour of South Africa on Friday with a visit to Emalahleni, the coal-mining town which produces most of the coal South Africa relies on to fire its power stations.
Emalahleni, which means “a place of coal”, is home to 12 coal-fired power stations and is among the areas earmarked for the just energy transition project which will see many of the power stations phased out over time.
Addressing the press shortly after the tour of the workshop where women and young people are being trained in solar and wind technologies, Yellen sought to allay fears that towns like Emalahleni would suffer from the transition as their economies are mostly reliant on coal-mining.
“What we are doing is trying to support a set of plans that South Africa has devised itself, that involve a gradual transition and recognition that we need to support communities that are affected by that transition. The jobs are important,” she said.
She said the U.S. was committed to ensuring that existing workers were re-skilled in order to find work opportunities in the renewable energy sector.
According to Yellen, centres like the Nkangala Top of the World Training Center were important for developing the skills needed to implement the transition and that she had discussed potential job losses from the transition with South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the national minister of minerals and energy, Gwede Mantashe.
“Facilitating a transition that leaves no one behind requires job retraining and re-skilling like we saw today. It also requires the redevelopment of former fossil fuel and power sites, and investment in infrastruature to support the development of new industries and opportunities,” she said.
Yellen was on Friday expected to meet various philanthropists in Johannesburg to attract funding for climate change projects and to visit the Apartheid Museum, which documents the brutality of the segregation system implemented by the white-minority government before the 1994 transition to democracy.
South Africa was the last leg of her 10-day Africa tour, which included visits to Senegal and Zambia.