Mantashes takes us forward in reverse

On the same day that the International Energy Agency publishes a report on how to achieve Net Zero by not building anymore fossil fuel plants, our ‘coal fundamentalist’ Minister Gwede Mantashe gives a speech in Parliament where he says: “We are going to be a major players in gas and oil”. Since 1994 Government has had these extremely expensive hobby horses that are arrogantly asserted coupled to denials – think arms deal, Fifa, pebble bed modular reactor, and then all denials about the criminal capture of Eskom, DENEL, Transnet, Prasa, etc, and this insane quixotic rush to become an oil and gas leader in a world moving off oil and gas. What alternative universe is the Minister in? Who benefits from this? What are the vested interests?

Accelerating the Transition to a Sustainable Ocean Economy

Launch of Ocean Panel Blue Paper during World Ocean Week (co-lead authors Mark Swilling and Tanya Brodie Rudolph of CST with Mary Ruckelshaus, Stanford University): “Accelerating the Transition to a Sustainable Ocean Economy”

The COVID-19 crisis has brought into sharp focus the interconnected nature of people and the environment. This is particularly true of the ocean, which is integral to human well-being and a thriving world economy.  As multiple stressors threaten the ocean, shifts in governance are needed to ensure the continued contribution of the ocean to people. The Ocean Panel (High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy), an initiative of 14 serving world leaders, commissioned a series of Blue Papers to build momentum towards a sustainable ocean economy.  Blue Paper 14 – “The Ocean Transition: What to Learn from System Transitions” – will be launched on Friday 12 June 2020 at an event which concludes two weeks of global dialogues and debates with the ocean community.

Dr Mary Ruckelshaus, co-lead author (Natural Capital Project, Senior Research Scientist, Stanford University) will participate in a panel discussion presenting the key insights from this paper together with Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute, H.E. Mr. Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Mr. Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, Sherpa to Prime Minister Erna Solberg, H.E. Ms. Ngedikes Olai Uludong, Permanent Representative of Palau to the UN, Sherpa to President Remengesau Jr,  and Hon. Jane Lubchenco, PhD., Oregon State University, Co-chair Ocean Panel Expert Group.

Join the event by registering on

Latest research from our Mphil students….

Every November we have a research colloquium where students who have completed their Mphil theses present a summary of their research. Although I have procrastinated in posting this, herewith the list of topics of the research presented last November:

Fundi Cwele: Towards an Inclusive and Green Growth Path: A Review of the South African National Development Plan’s Approach to Economic Growth

Louise Jones: Corporate Social Responsibility and Social Justice Advocacy: An exploration of factors which impact corporate South Africa’s engagement

Brett Rightford: Exploring hemp farming as a sustainable agriculture in South Africa, using a social-ecological systems approach

Kelly Scott: Exploring the role of storytelling in environmental communication: A study of a documentary campaign aimed at South African millenials

Beryl Visser: Women entrepreneurship development in South Africa: towards transformative innovation

Ann Gacheri Kaimenyi: A differential urban food metabolism of Cape Town households

Lerato Mahamo: A qualitative analysis of household food insecurity in urban and rural households in Maseru

Nontsikelelo Mngqibisa: Assessment of Collaborative Mechanisms for Planning Processes in building Resilient Cities: Case studies of Blantyre and Harare

Mosili Liphoto: Exploring the impact of Lesotho Highlands Water Project compensation plan on the livelihoods of resettled communities

Elena Mancebo Masa: Enabling complexity thinking in urban regeneration in Cape Town

Michelle Cruywagen: Exploring the usefulness of Just Transition strategies in mitigating the risk of labour losses in South Africa’s energy transition

Andy Muranda: Investigating the Global Renewable Energy Revolution: Waves, Cycles and Transitions

Andrew Murray: The blockchain-energy Nexus


On my way home…..

On my way home after an incredibly successful trip. Georgetown University (Washington DC) has decided to establish a Centre for Environmental Justice and opened the discussion about how I can be involved in some way, working with an amazingly wide group of academics from many disciplines who are part of the Georgetown Environmental Initiative led by the ecologist Peter Marra. Then spent two days in London with my son Ray, and had an excellent discussion with Jeremy Oppenheim who heads up the international consulting firm SystemIQ – I’ve been appointed a Senior Advisor with a Brief to explore establishing a Cape Town office. And then overnight in Amsterdam with my good friend and colleague Maarten Hajer from Utrecht University. We celebrated winning a 1.5 million euro grant from the VW Foundation to Fund four years of research on inequality and the energy transition. And yet, heading home in a world gone mad: Trump impeached, Boris leading the lemmings into cultural oblivion, Australia on fire, locust plagues in Somalia, famine stalking the land across many regions, misogyny on the rise and young people clamoring for answers who get mocked and attacked by police in the streets. We do what we can so our children live in a world they deserve. 2020 is when I hand over to the next generation and reach out to work with others across the globe. Challenging, but exciting times.

Workshop on ESKOM alternatives

Today (21 October 2019) I’m at a AIDC event on Energy Transitions and the role of transformed Eskom. I’m delivering a talk on the current crisis and the transition to renewable energy. Interesting group, including many unionists and progressive organizations. Last Friday delivered a similar talk to the trade unions involved in Nedlac – SAFTU, FEDUSA, COSATU and NACTU. Very good discussion. The publication of the (correct) IRP late Friday has really redefined the terms of the conversation.

Defeating state capture

Speaking today (23 October 2019) at the Civil Society Conference on Defeating State Capture and Rebuilding the State hosted by Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and PARI. I’ve been asked to sum up at the end on ‘Mapping the way forward for civil society – charter detailing focal areas of work for civil society’. Many notables here – the ‘who’s who’ of the anti-capture movement. Derek Hanekom doing the opening now. Sense of confidence in the room that ‘we are winning’. Hope is important, after all. As the Old Testament Proverb says: ‘Without hope the nation perishes.’ Without courage, there can be no hope.

Snapping the connection between renewables and climate science….

I was on a TV panel this morning with Hilary Joffee and Azar Jamime interviewed by Karima Brown about ‘lowest cost option for South Africa’s future energy mix’ – the focus of my Daily Maverick article a few days ago that seems to have hit a nerve across many different circles! I am beginning to realize something: I should do what Gwede Mantashe did when he spoke in Australia recently about the discovery in SA of a new metal that did not exist (because the speechwriter did not realize that the report was a April fool’s joke). I should say we found the Wakanda rock that generates unlimited energy and it only costs 60c/KWh, and guess what it is spread out all around the country so everyone can benefit by setting up their own energy generator. If could prove it existed and ran countless models proving it works, I could convince South Africa to give up on coal and adopt the Wakanda rocks. It would be easy, actually. But when you mention renewables, immediately people think climate change, and then they secretly say they don’t “believe in the science” – as if it is a matter of belief or not. This is why in this interview I said forget about the science – just focus on the money. Price, price, price. Maybe that is what we need to do – snap the connection between renewables and climate science!