Greenpeace has called on the national union of millers and other unions to deal with renewable energy strategies after the trade union announced to the organization "recklessly" to publish a report that found that Mpumalanga's air is the most polluted in the world.
"Human life is on the upside, and air pollution is clearly a public health crisis that can no longer be ignored," said Melita Steele, Greenpeace Africa's climate and energy campaigner, Melita Steele.
Steele's comments stem from the critique that the NUMP offset in Greenpeace, and the organization has recently reported on a "clear" campaign to leave the coal power plant and coal mines in Mpumalanga.
The report, published last week by the organization, found that Mpumalanga province has the highest level of air pollution in the world that exceeds the levels of nitrogen dioxide on six continents.
READ MORE: Mpumalanga at the top of the world charts on air pollution with nitrogen
The findings were made by Greenpeace, who analyzed the Sentinel 5P satellite data from the European Space Agency showing air pollution on six continents from 1 June to 31 August 2018. According to Greenpeace, coal mines, transport and Eskom's 12 coal-fired power plants were defined as the largest source of air pollution in the province.
In a press release, the Highveld Association said Greenpeace "does not have the interest of poor people and workers affected by the closure of 12 power plants and coal mines in Mpumalanga."
But Steele says it is in the interest of all South Africans to "breathe clean air".
"This is especially important for our children who are most vulnerable to the devastating effects of respiratory contaminated air on health," said Steele.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that air pollution is one of the greatest burdens for children's health.
According to WHO research published last week, 93% of the world's population below 15 inhabitants breathes in the air, which is "so contaminated that it threatens their health and development".
In 2016, 600,000 children worldwide are affected by air pollution and are responsible for one of the 10 deaths of children under the age of five, WHO.
READ MORE: World kids wear the highest toxic air
Nitrogen dioxide is a compound that contributes to the formation of fine particles known as PM2.5 (particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter) and earth's ozone. These are classified as hazardous types of air pollution. Long-term exposure to high levels of PM2.5 and ozone leads to long-term health conditions such as respiratory and cardiovascular disease and cancer.
"Finding the truth about air pollution in South Africa is indispensable. What would be unscrupulous would be to keep information from people in Mpumalang … about the devastating pollution they are exposed to, and I pretend there are no other options," added Steele.
But the concern that South Africa will shift to renewable energy sources will make people feel that their jobs are widespread – especially after Minister of Energy Jeff Radebe decided to deal with R56 billion with independent energy producers (IPP).
Last week, Greenpeace suggested that no new coal-fired thermal power plant be included in the national electricity plan in order to cancel the Kusila coal-mines in Mpumalang and that half of the coal-fired power stations will be decommissioned by 2030.
"If the power plants and coal mines are closed in Mpumalang, several cities, including Witbang, will become city cities … If the power plants are shut down and mined, the economy of our country will collapse and people will remain in the dark," said Cosatu- This week, NUM said.
The National Federation of Metal Workers in South Africa (Numsa) – the largest union in the competitive federation of the South African Federation of Trade Unions – has in recent months adopted a difficult renewable, pro-coal stance.
In March, Nums tried to achieve the necessary delay in the IPP agreement, because the signing of these contracts "damaged the Mpumalange workers' class and the country as a whole," because this would mean that Eskom would require less coal-fired electricity.
"This will probably lead to the closure of coal-fired power plants, which will affect the fact that at least 30,000 working-class families will suffer from job losses," the association said at that time.
Since then, the union has said that it "does not have an ideological position against renewable energy sources", but the transition from coal-powered power must be in the interests of workers.
Steele completed the Greenpeace statement, inviting NUM and other trade unions to join the organization in a transition that would "create more environmentally friendly jobs and protect people and workers in this sector."