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Jesse Burton


South African and global coal markets, electricity policy and markets, climate change policy, fossil fuel subsidies and finance, socio-economic implications of coal transitions and phase out, political economy of the South African coal sector.

Contact Details

Email: jesse.burton@uct.ac.za or jesse.burton.uct@gmail.com


MSc in Energy Studies From University of Cape Town

Current Projects

Coal Transitions: Research and Dialogue on the future of coal.  The project is developing credible and feasible trajectories and policy packages for deep transitions in the coal sector in six major coal using countries. The South African analysis comprises the development of a detailed coal mine database and energy systems and macro-economic modeling to understand the implications of meeting 2oC for the South African coal sector, coupled with the development of transition pathways for workers out of the coal sector (with IDDRI, Climate Strategies and 5 other country teams: http://www.iddri.org/Projets/Coal-Transitions-Research-and-Dialogue-on-the-Future-of-Coal)

Supply side fossil fuel policy and the political economy of coal in South Africa: The project examines the political feasibility of supply side climate change policy in South Africa, through analysis of the shifts in the nature of capital/ownership in the coal sector and finance and subsidies for coal mining  (with the Stockholm Environment Institute)

Co-benefits Study: Examining the skills and employment implications of different electricity scenarios (with the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research)

Climate Transparency: Climate Transparency is a global consortium with a shared mission to stimulate a ‘race to the top’ in G20 climate action and to shift investments towards zero carbon technologies through enhanced transparency. The ERC is also involved in cross-country analysis of coal markets and energy transitions under this project.


1. Journal articles

Thomas Spencer, Michel Colombier, Oliver Sartor, Amit Garg, Vineet Tiwari, Jesse Burton, Tara Caetano, Fergus Green, Fei Teng & John Wiseman (2017): The 1.5°C target and coal sector transition: at the limits of societal feasibility, Climate Policy, DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2017.1386540. https://doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2017.1386540

2. Book chapters

Burton, J, Lott, T, Rennkamp, B. Forthcoming.  Sustaining Carbon Lock-in: Fossil Fuel Subsidies in South Africa. In van Asselt, H & Skovgaard, J. Politics of fossil fuel subsidies. Cambridge University Press

Baker, L and Burton, J (2018) 'The politics of procurement and the low carbon transition in South Africa' in A. Goldthau, M. Keating and C. Kuzemko (eds.) Handbook of the International Political Economy of Energy and Natural Resources. Edward Elgar.

3. Research reports

Ireland, G & Burton, J. ‘An assessment of new coal plants in South Africa’s electricity future: The cost, emissions, and supply security implications of the coal IPP programme’. Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town

Steyn, G, Burton, J, Steenkamp, M (2017) "Eskom’s financial crisis and the viability of coal-fired power in South Africa: Implications for Kusile and the older coal-fired power stations" Meridian Economics, Cape Town: South Africa.

Amit Garg, Jan Christoph Steckel, Jesse Burton, Julio Friedmann, Frank Jotzo, Gunnar Luderer, Pao-Yu Oei, Michiel Schaeffer, Samantha Smith, Fabby Tumiwa, Adrien Vogt-Schilb, Paola Yanguas-Parra, Xianli Zhu (2017). Chapter 5: Bridging the gap – Phasing out coal. In UNEP (2017) The Emissions Gap Report 2017.

Burton, J. Caetano, T, Hughes, A, Merven, B,  Ahjum, F, McCall, B. (2016). “The impact of stranding power sector assets in South Africa: Using a linked model to understand economy-wide implications.”  Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town, Cape Town

Baker, L., Burton, J.,  Godinho, C., Trollip, H. (2015) “The political economy of decarbonisation: exploring the dynamics of South Africa’s electricity sector”. Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town: Cape Town

Burton, J &Winkler, H (2014). “South Africa’s planned coal infrastructure expansion: drivers, dynamics and impacts on greenhouse gas emissions” Energy Research Centre, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

4. Relevant conferences & presentations

April 2018                   “South Africa’s coal transition” presented at a symposium on the future of coal at the Australian National University and Melbourne University

November 2017          South Africa’s coal transition” presented at Coal and Climate Change, Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India

June 2017                    Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies Forum: mining and sustainable development

                                    ‘A just transition for South Africa’s coal economy’

October 2016              Reframing the minerals-energy complex: understanding the dynamics of the coal sector

September 2016          Supply-side Fossil Fuels and Climate Policy, Oxford, United Kingdom

                                    ‘The emission implications of South Africa’s elite transition’

June 2016                    The politics of fossil fuel subsidies and their reform, Stockholm, Sweden

‘Sustaining carbon lock-in: the political economy of fossil fuel subsidies in South Africa’ (with Lott, T & Rennkamp, B)

September 2015          1st Global Conference on Stranded Assets, Oxford, United Kingdom

                                    ‘Stranded assets in South Africa’ (with Caetano, T)

July 2015                    Our Common Future under Climate Change, Paris, France.

                                     ‘South African coal infrastructure: drivers and emissions implications’

April 2012                   Planet under pressure, London, United Kingdom.

Poster presentation (with Coetzee, K). ‘Rhetoric versus reality: climate and energy policy in South Africa’