‘Just’ energy transitions need more transparency, less gas | Climate crisis

Soaring energy prices in Europe caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine have given new impetus to fossil fuel projects in Asia and Africa, especially those involving gas.

Leaders attending the G20 summit which kicked off in Indonesia today and the ongoing COP27 climate summit in Egypt are expected to push for increased investment in oil and gas exploration.

A sign of this is the failure of G20 climate and environment ministers to produce an agreed communiqué on climate action after their meeting in August. COP27 President-designate Sameh Shoukry, who attended the meeting, warned that leaders could backtrack on their climate commitments by blaming geopolitical realities and the energy crisis.

Ironically, one mechanism that could be used to facilitate an unwanted switch to gas is the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP), an initiative with ambitious goals.

Indeed, the JETP is a mechanism under which wealthy countries are expected to help emerging economies transition to clean energy while being fair and transparent with affected local communities. South Africa received Western funding under the JETP last year, and Indonesia may be announced as a recipient when it hosts the G20.

However, details of the JETP deal with South Africa remain under wraps, raising concerns about the opacity surrounding it. Civil society groups and human rights and climate activists insist on the need for transparency and justice in both procedural and substantive aspects of these agreements.

In September, South African civil society groups – led by the Life After Coal Campaign and the Fair Finance Coalition of South Africa – wrote to the Presidential Climate Finance Task Team (PCFTT) for the second time. ) of the country, requiring that their participation and contribution be taken into account. in consideration.

It is also unclear whether aid to South Africa will take the form of grants or loans, their total value and the terms under which they will be provided. How will the clean energy produced through this initiative be distributed? What role will the private sector play in its distribution? These are questions to which the people of South Africa – and the rest of the world – have no answers.

Similar concerns are being raised over Indonesia’s deal at a time when the two main donor countries, Japan and the United States, are leading the negotiations.

Civil society organizations are calling for greater transparency around these talks and the prioritization of the interests of workers, youth and affected communities. A move away from fossil fuels will inevitably be a work transition for many communities that depend on coal jobs to sustain themselves. Such a change that does not include the training, assistance and compensation required for these workers to find new jobs cannot be considered as one.

Recently, civil society organizations in Indonesia published a list of demands on the JETP under negotiation. These included Indonesia’s need to replace the country’s extractive and centralized energy generation and distribution system with a more democratic system based on renewable energy. The list also highlighted the need to enshrine justice, transparency and accountability mechanisms in the agreement; and that human rights, local customs and cultural traditions are honored and respected during the transition. So far there has been no response.

This lack of transparency and communication with civil society undermines the very idea of ​​a “just” energy transition. It also raises questions about the intent of such moves, especially at a time when alternatives to Russian fossil fuels are in high demand.

At present, Indonesia still plans to build at least 13.5 GW of coal-fired power plants, and gas development also occupies a growing share of the so-called proposed solutions to the current energy and geopolitical volatility.

While the specifics of Indonesia’s JETP deal are still to be determined, the government recently announced its intention to increase gas production. In Bali, a local movement opposes the construction of an LNG terminal in a mangrove forest region of social and environmental importance.

The track records of Indonesia, South Africa and the G7 countries do not inspire confidence either: none of them are on schedule to meet the Paris Agreement targets on change. climatic.

We must preemptively ensure that mechanisms such as the JETP, which could potentially serve as a model for climate investments in several countries, are not imposed without careful consideration and democratic participation.

In Africa, one argument used to increase fossil fuel production is that the continent should be allowed to benefit economically from its resources in the same way that rich countries have historically done. However, the current race for gas in Africa, often driven by European investment, represents a new form of energy colonialism that would lock Africa into decades of adverse consequences on the frontlines of climate change.

It is true that 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity and nearly 1 billion people do not have access to clean cooking. The International Energy Agency’s Africa Energy Outlook report in 2022 showed that solving this problem requires $25 billion per year by 2030. The construction of a single liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal per year would absorb that money.

The fact is that fossil gas will not lead to expanded energy access for South Africa or Indonesia. Even if investment in fossil fuels continued today, the infrastructure would not be ready for several years and would tie Africa to decades more of unnecessary carbon emissions. Furthermore, it is likely that investing European countries would seek to use this gas to secure their own energy needs as a priority, meaning that the African market would see no change in the current energy security and affordability landscape. .

At a time when the impacts of climate change are intensifying around the world, countries and organizations are looking to the JETP agreements for South Africa and Indonesia as potential models for implementation elsewhere. It is essential that an undesirable precedent is not set. Instead, justice, transparency and real solutions must be the central principles of current and future agreements of this type.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

About Mitchel McMillan

Check Also

Could taxes on polluters finance losses and damages?

Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter straight to your inbox, along with the latest …