28 January 2021
Category : Reportage
The concept of “Just Transition” in the face of climate change, what does it mean?
“Just” – for whom? And a “transition” – to where? We analyse the concept and explain the contribution of EUROCLIMA+ with Cecilia Castillo, FIIAPP colleague and director of climate governance in the programme.Just Transition. For the planet and for people.
What is a Just Transition? Let’s break it down bit by bit.
Transition (Noun): The action and effect of passing from one mode of being, or of doing things, to another. This is how the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines it and it is what the planet needs. Changing from a carbon-based economic model to a different one which is based on a decarbonised economy.
But what does this mean?
Although it seems like yesterday, six years have passed since reaching the milestone in the fight against climate change that was the historic signing in 2015 of the Paris Agreement. In other words, it was in Paris where a decision was taken about something that was agreed on by several persons. (This is how the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE) defines the word agreement). In the case that concerns us, the common decision was taken by several countries. Specifically 180, including Spain, China, France and the United States, which has just rejoined the agreement after the arrival of Joe Biden at the White House.
The Paris Agreement establishes a global framework in order that the planet and its inhabitants avoid dangerous climate change. How? Through the commitment made by signatories regarding global warming, in other words, that the temperature of the planet does not increase by more than 2°C and, if possible, is limited to at most an increase of 1.5°C.
Why is this significant? Because we know that the adverse effects of climate change derive from global warming. From warming caused by the emission into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases that is in turn a consequence of relying on carbon-based economies.
Therefore, to comply with the Paris Agreement, it is necessary to move from a carbon-based economic model to a different one based on a decarbonised economy. But what does decarbonise mean? ‘The terms decarbonise and decarbonisation are the correct ones to use when referring to the process of reducing carbon emissions, especially in the form of carbon dioxide‘. This is explained by the Foundation of Emerging Spanish ( Fundéu ) which it is advised by the RAE. The Fundéu also says:
‘Decarbonise is not the opposite of carbonise, a verb related to carbon, but rather refers to the process by which countries or other entities try to achieve a low-carbon emission economy’.
How can we make that transition?
According to the director of the Climate Governance area in the EUROLIMA+ programme, we must change the way we produce, the way we travel and the way we consume: ‘Decarbonisation can be achieved in different ways. Each country, depending on its particularities, will aim for a zero net emissions goal by tackling sectors with the greatest potential for reducing emissions: transport, building, industry, agriculture, forests and biodiversity’, the specialist affirms. In general, some of the measures that Latin American governments are already taking include:
-Investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency
-Reducing fossil fuel subsidies and redirecting them to sustainable economic sectors and activities
-Taxing emissions to send the market a clear signal (for example, with the “polluter pays principle”)
-Committing to electric transport (public and private)
The transition to a neutral economy and the adoption of these measures directly affects economic sectors such as coal mining and can lead to the progressive decline of many other sectors related to energy or transport. That is why making this transition is an opportunity, but it also poses new challenges so that progressive change from one model to another is socially just, without leaving anyone behind.
For example, explains the director of Democratic Governance, ‘the decarbonisation process in Latin America may destroy 7.5 million jobs, with electricity no longer being produced from fossil fuels’. However, according to a Report carried out jointly by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), such destruction of unsustainable jobs would be more than offset. ‘22.5 million jobs will be generated in renewable energy, new production of plant-derived food, forestry, construction and manufacturing’. Some examples of these new green jobs are in the field of organic farming, the sustainable rehabilitation of buildings, waste management, the protection and restoration of ecosystems, energy efficiency and renewable energies, among others.
For its part, the European Union (EU) has the European Green Deal, a roadmap to equip the EU with a sustainable economy that aspires to a climate neutral Europe by 2050 and outlines the necessary sustainable investments and financing tools available to ensure a just and inclusive transition that generates new jobs related to the promotion of renewable energies and more sustainable and resilient mobility and production models. In addition, the EU also has the Mechanism for a Just Transition (MTJ in its Spanish initials), a fundamental element which enables the transition to a climate neutral economy to be equitably carried out.
The EUROCLIMA+ programme
EUROCLIMA+ is the EU’s flagship programme for environmental sustainability and climate change mitigation in Latin America. Its objective is to reduce the impact of climate change and its effects on the continent. The programme works by assisting countries that are already beginning to address the just transition. The objective, during the process of transformation and green recovery, is to mitigate climate change while protecting the most vulnerable citizens and professionals. The latter being carried out through integration, creation, coordination, organisation and dialogue between the various sectors of energy, environment, work and social policies.
Currently, the programme is preparing the publication of a new study of topics, prepared by Teresa Cavero and Arantxa Guereña for FIIAPP, based on the analysis of the progress made in incorporating the Just Transition approach in national climate policies, taking into account the case study from six countries: Spain, Chile, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru and Uruguay.
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