Shifting to Below 2° Economies: Berlin Event Discusses Strategies for Just Energy Transitions
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Experts on Just Transition shared their views, with a focus on: ensuring workers are central to energy transitions (SDG 8); identifying the transition processes that have worked elsewhere (SDG 7); and sharing how international cooperation can build momentum for transitions around the world (SDG 17).

In closing the discussion, Deputy Director General Gorißen reminded the group there is a need to always keep climate goals in mind while we focus on transition.

10 April 2019: The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) took the opportunity of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD) 2019 to launch the IISD Strategy Document Real People Real Change: Strategies for Just Energy Transitions. In launching the guidebook, IISD also brought together a group of experts on Just Transition to share their views, with a focus on:

  • ensuring workers are central to energy transitions (SDG 8);
  • identifying the transition processes that have worked elsewhere (SDG 7);
  • and sharing how international cooperation can build momentum for transitions around the world (SDG 17).

Deputy Director General of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment Norbert Gorißen opened the session with remarks about the importance of energy transitions. He noted that transitions are already underway and there is a need for governments to be proactive, while adding that climate objectives must influence government actions.

IISD’s strategy document is intended to support governments of both developed and developing countries in their efforts to make energy transitions just. It brings together political and communications strategies for a just transition, building on research and case studies of energy transitions that have happened or that are happening in Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, India, Poland and Ukraine. In presenting the findings of ‘Real People Real Change’, IISD Senior Policy Advisor Philip Gass highlighted a common “4C” framework that has been critical to several successful transitions:

  • understanding the local context;
  • identifying champions that can drive transition with various groups;
  • making the case through transparent and effective stakeholder engagement;
  • and developing complementary policies that support those who will be directly impacted by transition.

Following the presentation of the guidebook, IISD Energy Program Director Peter Wooders moderated a discussion of experts, starting with country representatives who spoke to their own domestic and international experiences with transition.

Vera Scholz, Director of Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure for GIZ, opened discussions noting it is increasingly evident that investments in fossil fuels have become less attractive. This decline means the transition is already upon us, she said, and we have the opportunity to shape this transition to ensure it is positive for workers and the climate if we act now. Scholz also highlighted the need for regional approaches to Just Transition with cooperation between governments, suggesting that foreign policy can be a conduit for international collaboration.

Hassan Yusseff, Co-Chair of the Just Transition Task Force for Canadian Coal Power Workers and Communities, shared his experience leading a multi-stakeholder effort for the Canadian Government as it looked to meet its coal phase out goal in a just manner. He noted that, at its heart, just transitions are about fairness. He also noted that Canada’s labour sector supported an energy transition, providing an example to other countries that fossil fuel workers can, and want to be, partners in transition when they are part of the solution.

Noting that his government had a very busy upcoming year as the host for UNFCCC COP 25, Gabriel Prudencio, Head of the Sustainable Energy Division for the Ministry of Energy in Chile, spoke to his government’s engagement, and resulting successes, in negotiating an agreement with the coal sector to stop expanding unabated coal electricity in Chile. He also noted there was an active working group on phasing out the existing fleet.

Tasneem Essop, Commissioner for the National Planning Commission, South Africa, noted that, in South Africa, the issue of justice is linked to South Africa’s political transition in 1994 and its ongoing challenges with inequality. This, she remarked, was a key driver of the decision to embed just transition into South Africa’s national development plan for 2030, and ultimately its Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement.

Matthew Webb, Team Leader for International Coal Transitions in the UK, noted that part of the UK’s motivation to engage internationally on coal phase out was their desire to share lessons from their own experience, with the hope other countries could learn form the UK’s example and avoid some of the pitfalls the country faced along the way.

Camilla Roman, Policy Specialist for the Green Jobs Program of the International Labour Organization, addressed the question of how the ILO is looking to assist transitions through the provision of advice and research supporting transitions. She noted that ILO research indicates there is potential for 18 million jobs to be created by just energy transitions by 2030. She also cautioned this was a net figure and 24 million new jobs would be offset by 6 million in job losses. Job losses and creation are often not in the same regions, she noted, necessitating international cooperation to help address uneven capacities and impacts around the world.

Samantha Smith, Director of the Just Transition Centre, spoke to the importance of the elevation of just transition into the Paris Agreement, and the momentum this has created. She also noted recent positive movement on coal phase out, but cautioned there are more difficult challenges ahead, pointing to sectors like the automotive industry as voices that must join future just transition discussions.

Deputy Director General Gorißen closed by reminding the group there is a need to always keep climate goals in mind while we focus on transition. He also highlighted key points for consideration, including that the costs of transition must be considered in tandem with the costs that would be faced if transition were not embraced. Finally, he spoke to the need for very broad and structured reform processes and engaging all stakeholders, and closed by speaking to the German Government’s long-term commitment to this issue. [Event Page] [Publication: Real People, Real Change]


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