Global Policy and Development


A just energy transition for both the Global North and South: How do we get there?

Report from our workshop at the People's Climate Summit during COP23.

Image: Maureen Sigauke during a presentation at the FES workshop at the People’s Climate Summit 2017 of Arthur Wyns (Climate Tracker)

Staying below an average global warming temperature of 1.5 to 2 °C is a challenge for all states in the world. In order to achieve this goal there needs to be a massive transformation taking place in the energy sector that has justice at its core. A just transition is important, but equally challenging. For developing and developed countries the challenges and prospects associated with such a transformation process are not necessarily the same. What options do we have for a just energy transition? How can we share best practices of a just transition between the Global North and the Global South?

A study, initiated by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) and Bread For The World (BFTW), aims at defining what justice means in the context of a just energy transition and evaluated twelve developing countries in terms of their potential for just energy transition and possible anchoring points for such a process in their national energy and climate policies.  An exchange workshop on ensuring a just energy transition between the instigators of the study, experts and a community of climate actors as well as activists was initiated in Bonn on Tuesday 07 November on the sidelines of the COP23 United Nations Conference on Climate Change and within the context of the People’s Climate Summit.

From the Paris Agreement to Implementing a Just Energy Transition

Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Center underlined the importance of taking into consideration the situation of local communities and people when talking about a transition to renewables. She also stated that it needs to go hand in hand with development so it can be ensured that everybody involved can benefit from sustainable livelihoods. Raju Chetri who is the author of the country example of Nepal in the above mentioned study, a just energy transition is a big challenge for his country who is landlocked and surrounded by China in the North (Tibet) and India in the South. For Nepal as an emerging country, a fair and just energy transition also means to achieve a good level of development by 2030, including a stable social infrastructure and a stable social system in place while dispensing from fossil fuels. A fair energy transition for a country like Nepal would mean that it can reduce its dependence from other countries in terms of fossil fuel based energy. But how can we develop such a policy when projects of hydraulic dams and photovoltaic panels are currently struggling to find funding in Nepal, even though the country has an impressive river network and a good daily dose of sun (8 hours a day)?

Towards a just energy transition in eight principles

The results of the study presented  by Mr. Thomas Hirsch, expert on climate and development, recommends eight principles to be included in the definition of the energy transition, divided in three dimensions.

First, the climate justice dimension, which includes the principles of (1) the need for an energy transition through implementing Nationally Determined Contributions  (NDCs), (2) implementing sustainable development strategies that can lead to the zero emission objective by 2050, and (3) the realisation that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are inseparable from the energy transition.

A second dimension is added, according to the study, by including the socio-economic aspects that play a role in a just transition: (4) the need to create decent jobs; (5) ensuring social equity; and (6) promoting gender equality.

Finally, the political dimension implies the commitment of all stakeholders, and requires (7) good governance and (8) the safeguarding of human rights.

Costa Rica: A good example of a just energy transition

Out of twelve countries sampled for the presented study, and according to the eight principles of a just energy transition outlined before, Costa Rica came out as a good example of how a just transition could be successful.

A middle-income country of Central America, Costa Rica performs well in terms of reconciling its sustainable development and nationally determined contributions to reducing its emissions, as well as balancing climate action, governance and pertaining human rights.

The island of Fiji, as well as Morocco, also proved to be good examples of conducting balanced transitions. Additionally, Mexico positioned itself as a model in terms of the combination of sustainable development policy and its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

Other countries in the study, namely Nepal, China, Jamaica, the Philippines, India, Vietnam and South Africa need to invest more efforts in ensuring that the energy transition will be just.

Recommendations for a just energy transition

We need to integrate the concept of a just energy transition into sectoral development policies. That is the first of five recommendations of the study: making sure that sustainable development is taking place in all sectors when transforming a region. Secondly, the study recommends that national contributions should incorporate just transition strategies while specifying the institutional roles of policies and programs."

The third recommendation proposes to involve a just transition as an integral part of social dialogue.

Fourthly, the study recommends implementing the frameworks needed for a just transition by involving stakeholders of all sorts to motivate their commitment to the transition process and to establish transparency.

Finally, human rights assessment and gender equality must become an integral part of national climate and energy contributions and long-term development strategies.

Apart from the introduction of the findings of the study, the workshop also offered participants the chance to discuss directly with experts from the Global North as well as the Global South. Through a world café setting they could engage with a representative from a Chinese research institute on the case of China, with a representative from the German Trade Union Confederation on the case of Germany and with the speaker from Nepal who offered to go more into detail on his country case presentation. The guiding question for all was on how a just energy transition can be achieved in the respective national contexts. The discussion between all participants and speakers was very fruitful. About 65-70 people participated in the workshop which was a great success. By analysing countries in several stages of their energy transition, and by defining best practices and guiding principles, the study by FES and BFTW provides an essential toolkit towards the transformation to a cleaner and more just society.

Text: Alo Lemou and Manuela Mattheß
Photo: Arthur Wyns

To strengthen climate journalism around the globe, the FES Media Fellowship COP23 this year cooperates with Climate Tracker and supports two young journalists, Alanah Torralba from the Philippines and Alo Lemou from Togo, who participate in this program. They receive a climate media training, report from COP23 and take part in FES events as well.

Department/Section: Globale Politik und Entwicklung

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