A Just Transition for Our Common Home: Renewable Energy, Labour and Poverty Eradication

A just transition must include justice in the context of climate change, justice in sustainable energy provision and development, justice in climate finance and justice in labour opportunities.

Article by Gemma Arpaia, ISCOS CISL

These are the conclusions of the international symposium “A Just Transition for Our Common Home: Renewable Energy, Labour and Poverty Eradication”, co-organised by WWF and FOCSIV (Federation of Christian Organizations of International Volunteer Service) on the 23 June, in Rome.

The seminar gathered different global and local stakeholders from Europe, Africa, East Asia and Latin America to increase awareness of the opportunities for integral sustainable development, for a just energy transition towards 100% renewable energy. Also discussed were the cross sectoral challenges and opportunities for those who will be impacted by global de-carbonisation.

The Encyclical Letter “Laudato Si’ On Care for Our Common Home” of Pope Francis, and the ILO Guidelines for a just energy transition provided two key points of reference for the 3 panels. The topics of these three panels were Capital Skills, Job Creation, Governance Capacity and Finance for the Transition (Panel I), Sustainable Energy for All (Panel II) and the role of Institutions, Businesses and Civil Society (Panel III).

Picture by Peg Hunter (Creative Commons, flickr)

The respect for and defense of basic human and labour rights during a transition process and outcome must be at the core of any just energy transition process. Beyond development and sustainability, just transition is about assisting workers and communities whose livelihoods depend on sectors that are going under a necessary change. In all countries, but particularly in those endowed with large fossil fuel reserves, it will require exploring the incentives, regulations and finance needed to assist their transformation until its results become established and self-standing.

Alison Tate, Director of Economic and Social Policy at ITUC, and David Nerini from CGIL La Spezia, were among the panelists underlining the trade union position on “just transition”. They provided arguments in favour of justice in capital skills, job creation, governance capacity and transition financing. Alison Tate stated:

“Every second person is now subject to job loss or reduction of working hours. 30 million people work in conditions comparable to forced labor. This is the economic reality. To reconcile zero poverty and zero CO2 emissions we will have to find ways that do not exclude anyone. In the first 50 multinational companies that provide consumer goods only 6% of the profits are produced by workers who depend directly on the holding, the rest of the work passes through outsourcing and subcontracting. Therefore, the profits for these companies are obtained thanks to people for which they have no responsibility. This is an issue of social justice. One has to wonder how we will use $90 trillion of investments planned by 2050 related to energy transition. More than 1,000 companies have signed an appeal, along with NGOs and other segments of society for a just transition. It must be such as to recover and build social protection systems. Workers of the most polluting industries are not to be marginalized, but rather their skills must be reoriented and adapted.”

Gemma Arpaia of ISCOS CISL, was the moderator in the discussion on justice in energy provision and development. This panel discussed why the global energy system is not just: billions of people live without access to clean and reliable sources of energy, and low income households spend a larger proportion of their income on energy services than higher income households, hindering opportunities to accumulate the wealth needed to escape from poverty.

In response to a consensus among all the participants that stressed the need for broad alliances, the final session of the seminars made inroads to facilitating a just transition by exploring the possibility of setting up a platform for collaborative efforts.