However, environmental justice should not take precedence over mitigating social inequality, the researchers warned.
They believe this path could lead to environmental justice taking precedence over mitigating social inequality.
Wits University’s Society, Work and Development Institute researcher Dr Victor Munnick said the call for a green economy had been controversial for decades, as people feared losing their jobs.
“I do agree there is a greater need for a green economy, for the sustainability of the environment and human health. But, firstly, we need to understand that as a country, we inherited mining from colonial rule and it contributed greatly to societal inequality and still does. A green economy must not perpetuate this.
“It will only address environmental justice but not social justice, such as land reform issues bought about by mining. This would be an opportunity for government to take a firm hand in economic transformation while addressing environmental and social injustices.”
He said a lot of people were dependent on the fossil fuel industry and it was important the state ensured jobs were not lost in a transition to renewable energy.
Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC) senior researcher Sandra van Niekerk said a green economy should not be geared towards profit, but on investing in carbon-clean operations that would not pose harm to basic human needs for water, land and clean air.
“We’ve been dealing with two issues: a huge number of unemployed and a climate crisis – two issues which the green economy could address.
“The shift in the economy would provide a lot of jobs in the renewable energy, agriculture and transport sectors and other industries. But the drive should not be dedicated to bringing in large profit gains that would deepen inequality.
“A green economy would largely be concentrated on decreasing the carbon emissions threatening the quality of land, water and air.”
Munnick and Van Niekerk both said renewable energy would be cheaper.
AIDC research found that a green economy could produce about one million jobs: 250,000 in electricity and renewable energy; 390,000 in transport; 150,000 to 200,000 in construction and repairs; 100,000 to 500,000 in agriculture; and 110,000 in the waste industry and education.
With more factories manufacturing and installing wind power, infrastructure would proceed steadily, adding to the existing renewable energy. And more concentration in the sector would provide more jobs.
According to the research, at the end of 20 years in a green economy, greenhouse gas emissions would have fallen from 237 million tons a year to four million tons.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a speech at the opening of the COP25 UN climate conference in Spain on Monday, said a green economy was not to be feared, but an opportunity to be embraced.
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