This brief presents a conceptual definition of a “just transition” and related concepts within the context of the current South African political-economic model. The author highlights the structural dysfunctions of this model and how it is failing to achieve developmental and environmental sustainability. The author discusses the opportunity for a new developmental approach centered around just transitions and highlights policy questions that are important to ensuring climate adaptation and mitigation efforts to promote economic democracy.
The author proposes that South Africa abandon its current market-led economic model and adopt a new one led by the state. The new model would involve labor-intensive industrialization that moves away from extractive models and addresses the needs of local and regional markets. The author examines potential strategies and enabling conditions for ensuring that economic activities support a just transition and overcome various challenges in the context of South Africa. The brief concludes with a call for a new economic growth indicator—one that can measure growth through education, housing, health, access to services, or happiness and well-being.