At the UN climate talks (COP28)- from November 30 to December 12 – the potential for a global renewable energy target is high on the agenda. To keep our world safe, not only do we need to phase out fossil fuels immediately but it is essential that we power up renewable energy fast and implement it widely.
We must not transition from one broken system to another. The fight against the climate crisis is also a fight for justice, and there needs to be engagement with social, environmental, and community justice issues as part of the process to ensure renewable energy is accessible by all.
To help understand what a truly ‘just transition’ looks like we’ve put together six points that outline what needs to happen:
1. Renewable energy solutions must have a direct impact on reducing emissions
Fossil fuels are at the root of the climate crisis and make up more than 90% of global emissions. We must urgently demand that political leaders act quickly to phase-out fossil fuels, as well as triple renewable energy capacity and double energy efficiency by 2030. Any attempt to delay and shift the conversation away from these goals risks worsening the climate crisis.
We should also be skeptical of unproven methods sold by the fossil fuel industry, such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The oil industry is often more interested in appearing like they are acting on climate change, than actually acting on climate change. That’s why we must hold them to account for the solutions we need. These technologies are still very expensive and complex to construct for most, especially in countries in parts of Africa, South America and Asia. These unproven methods risk extending the life of the failing fossil fuel industry.
2. Renewable energy solutions must be accessible by all and not prioritize the rich over the poor
History shows that when rich countries extract fossil fuels in poorer countries there are usually consequences like worsening social and economic inequalities on top of deepening the climate crisis. Instead of replicating the same systems that worsen inequalities, we must support affordable and energy saving solutions over expensive, individualistic transport technologies.
We also need to put decision-making power in the hands of the many instead of the elite few. People should be actively involved in making decisions. Community-centered, community-led and community-owned renewable energy projects are the models that will bring us closer to climate justice. Renewable energy solutions must uphold the rights of frontline communities and should be produced close to them while not threatening the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and their livelihoods. Energy that doesn’t require kilometers of pipelines, long-distance planning and centralized management, like solar and wind, for instance, are preferred. This will help move us away from the unequal control, access and use of energy by the rich and privileged.
3. The responsibility to pay for renewable energy solutions must be on the countries that have historically contributed the most to the climate crisis
Countries who are historically not responsible for the climate crisis are experiencing the worst climate impacts. We must push governments in rich countries to prioritize resources to countries least responsible for the climate crisis and most vulnerable to its impacts. In other words, money needs to flow from those who have caused the climate crisis to those who have not. The most impacted communities should be supported to adopt affordable and modern renewable energy.
4. We cannot replace a broken system with another when building renewable energy projects
Investment in countries in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia needs to be seven times the current levels and their debt needs to be canceled. And when we scale up renewable energy solutions, the demand for raw materials and minerals will inevitably rise. Not only do we need democratic and transparent regulation for them but as we move forward, we must also explore ways to reduce the need for these materials. Currently, recycling renewable energy materials costs several times more than sending it to waste. In many instances, the necessary means for recycling don’t even exist yet. Governments and the private sector must act to promote recycling over disposing.
5. Renewable energy solutions must ensure clean water, air, and a healthy environment for all
We must do what we can to invest in solutions that maintain the crucial agricultural land of communities and preserve important food and water sources. We need clear policies for renewable energy projects against deforestation of forests on national and international levels.
6. Implementation is everything
There is no single technology, policy or investment that will solve a challenge at the scale of the climate crisis. It will take many different complementary solutions to provide the transition that we need. How just a renewable energy project is cannot be determined by its technology, but how and where it will be used. A renewable energy solution is only just if it fits community needs, and is rolled out in a way that supports people’s rights.
At COP28, a global renewable energy objective in line with the 1.5°C target has taken center stage and is positioned to likely be adopted in the conference’s final text. This objective holds the promise to realign our course and bring us back on track. We’ve researched and written a groundbreaking report that shows how the world can end coal, oil and gas fast, and transition to 100% renewable energy fairly and equitably.
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