A Just Transition, so that nobody is left behind
“You forget that the fruits belong to all but that the land belongs to no one,” warned the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The health emergency and the climate crisis have brought into sharp focus the uncontrollable consequences of man’s activities on the planet.
The crises that we are currently experiencing have demonstrated, once again, the importance of energy for our society. The provision of healthcare, the millions of people able to work from home and the need to provide continuity to industrial production all rely on a secure and constant supply of electric energy that, now more than ever before, must be generated without altering the planet’s delicate balance.
The solution then is a Green Recovery: a recovery centered on investments in green technologies and in the production of energy from renewable sources, but also on making our energy consumption more efficient, developing sustainable mobility and the circular economy. What’s more, it is an opportunity to combine the growing momentum of the energy transition with the creation of new jobs.
Merely talking about the energy transition is not enough. Even a virtuous process such as this must be conducted with great care in order to avoid creating new forms of inequality. That is why the concept of a Just Transition that leaves no one behind emerged some time ago.
A just transition for all, in fact, also considers the needs of those social categories more exposed to change, such as the communities whose local economies are based around coal mining. If the energy transition does in fact lead to job losses in particular productive sectors, it will be necessary to create new employment opportunities and reskilling programs for workers and businesses.
From the UN’s SDGs to Europe
The idea of a just energy transition was at the heart of the speech by UN Secretary General António Guterres at the most recent edition of the World Climate Conference, COP25 in Madrid. Here he also cited the Climate Action for Jobs plan which was presented at the New York climate summit. Many of the UN’s 2030 Agenda Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG#8 (“Decent Work and Economic Growth”), are also pertinent to a Just Transition.
A Just Transition is also being promoted by the Climate Justice Alliance, a global network of NGOs that came together in 2013. It is now one of the main supporters of the Green New Deal, the packet of proposals put forward in the United States to tackle climate change and economic inequality. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) has frequently underlined the importance of a just energy transition, as has the RES4Africa Foundation, which announced a study of the subject in collaboration with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Africa, and in particular sub-Saharan Africa, is the part of the world most affected by energy poverty: half of the region’s population has no access to electricity. This situation has a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of its inhabitants and on the environment. The solution can be found in an inclusive and sustainable energy transition that also involves the electrification of new sectors.
Thought it may seem incredible, according to estimates by the European Commission, 54 million European citizens suffer from energy poverty. What’s more, today one fifth of the electricity produced in Europe is generated from coal. Not only that, coal-fired power stations employ 230 thousand people spread across 31 regions in 11 European member states. It is with these communities in mind that the program for the Just Transition (which was presented as part of the European Green Deal) was created. The aim is to support citizens in developing their professional skills and in upgrading their homes, thanks to a clean, secure and affordably priced energy supply.
Enel and the Just Transition
Our Group has fully embraced the spirit of the Just Transition. With more than 46GW of installed capacity in 27 countries around the world, Enel Green Power is the global leader in the clean energy sector, with an investment plan that is set to boost capacity to 60GW by 2022. Our projects aim to bring the benefits of the energy transition all over the world, extending access to energy to all and creating shared value in the communities in which we operate, in line in particular with SDG#7 (“Affordable and Clean Energy”) and SDG#8 (“Decent Work and Economic Growth”).
Last year the Enel Foundation also promoted a study with the title “Just E-volution 2030” in collaboration with The European House Ambrosetti. The data-based analysis confirmed the benefits, also in terms of employment, that derive from green investments, the reconversion and repurposing of old power plants and the professional reskilling of people most affected by the change. In order to be successful, it is imperative that the energy transition ensures that no one is left behind.