Climate Action Network The transition to 100% renewable energy must be just, equitable and rapid

September 2023


The escalating impacts of the climate crisis are already alarming, as they impact people and ecosystems worldwide now. People and communities in the Global South who have done the least to cause this crisis are facing some of the first and worst impacts. If governments fail to act and allow global average temperatures to rise by 1.5ºC or beyond, the consequences will become even more catastrophic.
Three quarters of the total greenhouse gas emissions emitted since the beginning of the industrial Revolution have been directly from burning fossil fuels.
The lack of urgency from global leaders, in particular in the wealthy, industrialised countries, to end fossil fuel production and consumption and transition towards 100% renewable, zero-carbon global energy systems is an outrage. There is no justification for this delay.

CAN-International calls for COP28 to adopt a comprehensive energy package that reflects the need for urgent and concerted action, by recognising the need for:
– A clear call for a fair, full, fast and funded phase out of fossil fuel production and use;
– Targets to massively scale up nature-positive, human rights compliant renewable energy growth; and
– Measures to reduce global energy consumption by at least a quarter by 2050.

As we phase out the fossil fuel system of the past and transition to the renewable energy system of the future, we must ensure that this is a just transition and does not replicate the centralised, extractivist energy system of the fossil fuel era that has undermined human rights, damaged lives and livelihoods and wreaked havoc with our planet’s ecosystems. By replicating the current energy model we are at risk of serving the ever-increasing demands of the very wealthy, while leaving more than a billion people in energy poverty.
On top of being responsible for the vast majority of the loss and damage caused by climate change, fossil fuel pollution is responsible for as many as 1 in 5 premature deaths worldwide, with the most recent IPCC Synthesis Report noting that the economic benefits to human health related to air quality improvement likely offset – and potentially far outweigh – the costs of mitigation.

Consequently, COP28 must recognise the need to ensure that the deployment of renewable energy is done in a way that puts people and nature first, rather than repeating the mistakes of the past – including sufficient grants-based funding by the rich OECD countries for this energy transition in lower income countries. This paper sets out CAN’s proposal for a framework to ensure that the transition to renewable energy is a just transition that: actively supports fossil fuel workers and those currently dependent on fossil fuel based systems for their livelihoods to play an active and productive part in the zero-carbon clean economy; that cleans up legacy pollution from fossil fuels and avoids negative impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity and communities living in these ecosystems ; that ensures energy access and secured energy supply, and that does not further replicate colonial and racial injustices.

CAN acknowledges that, if done badly, renewable energy systems have the potential to harm people, communities, and ecosystems, and to violate human rights. This is avoidable. For example: accelerated uptake of electric vehicles in the Global North is already having implications for lithium extraction in the water-scarce salt flats in South America, putting the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other communities at risk, and destructive strip mines for bauxite taking farmland in parts of Africa; large expanses of land for wind or solar can undermine local land rights or food production systems; and demand for renewable hydrogen production in countries in the Global South may mean large scale renewable energy prioritised for hydrogen exports at the expense of local energy access and supply.

To avoid these negative impacts, the renewable energy system of the future must be built on a system transformation. Instead of replicating past energy systems that benefited the wealthy few at the expense of the many, renewable energy deployment must be part of a new system that minimises its footprint on materials, land, people and planet, while providing democratic and human rights-compliant energy systems that provide clean, safe energy for all.
CAN International proposes a framework to promote a just, equitable and rapid transition to a new 100% renewable energy system, that provides fair access to clean energy for all.

Download file: http://CAN_Just-Renewables-Paper_September-2023.docx.pdf

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