The Burden Shouldn’t Fall on those Carrying the Most Weight Already

Th heading is used in this article written by Ketan Joshi about the need to be careful with how we transition quickly away from a high carbon way of living. The basic argument is that causing further large and unnecessary environmental or social harm to build large scale renewable generation/storage will slow the transition down rather than speed it up due to the loss of social license.

Ketan explains this better than we can so please read the article. It is compelling.

The key point we take out of this is that to achieve a fair/equitable/just transition we need an improved model for how we develop what might turn out to be a very different energy system, both in form and function. Before we go on, we acknowledge that the top down ‘big corporate’ approach can, and does, work sometimes so we’re not advocating for a complete overhaul. What we are saying though that if our society is going to successfully navigate the next decades in the most efficient and effective way we can, then we need to develop a much more inclusive way of designing and building new energy systems as well as making decisions about how we use it.

The same can be said for other core human rights like food, transport, and housing. Investment in improving how communities engage to develop robust co-design systems is needed urgently. Fast and inclusive decision making should be the goal – we also need to acknowledge that it won’t always be perfect but then nothing is so lets get on with it. 

We also need to develop a much deeper understanding of the required value/outcomes from the community based energy projects that go well  beyond just financial returns. This expanded view of the value of community energy isn’t new, Dr Anna Berka from Massey University published this paper back in 2017. 

This is where some clarity/leadership about what the energy transition should look like would be useful. While talking about the wider issue of climate change, the need for a clear vision that helps us all get behind the transition is a feature of work by Mariana Mazzucato:

“Applying mission-oriented thinking in our times requires not just adaptation but also institutional innovations that create new markets and reshape the existing ones. And, importantly, it also requires citizen participation”
― Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism

It is also covered throughout a whole chapter of one of the latest IPCC Reports (see ‘Summary for Policymakers).

“There is increased evidence of maladaptation across many sectors and regions since the AR5. Maladaptive responses to climate change can create lock-ins of vulnerability, exposure and risks that are difficult and expensive to change and exacerbate existing inequalities. Maladaptation can be avoided by flexible, multi-sectoral, inclusive and long-term planning and implementation of adaptation actions with benefits to many sectors and systems.” SPMC.4 (page 28)

If Ketan, Dr Berka, Mazzucato, or the IPCC aren’t your jam, then the this need for developing new approaches is spelt out in other publications. The links below provide a idea of how the Australians, Canadians and Europeans are developing their thinking. As a body of work, this all points to then need to engage deeply with all parts of society. 

When does the Government investment start to reflect this need? 

Governments must lead on social license, says report – our energy security depends on it – June 2022

An evolving challenge: helping communities harness the energy transition for positive transformation – November 2023

Social innovation supports inclusive and accelerated energy transitions with appropriate governance – August 2023

Building Momentum for a Just Transition in Canada: Perspectives from civil society – April 2021

Fair Energy Transition for All (FETA): How to get there – November 2022

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