'Just transition' pushed by experts, activists and sectors amid record floods, droughts in Asia

'Just transition' pushed by experts, activists and sectors amid record floods, droughts in Asia

On 7-9 September, Asian thought leaders and decision-makers from over 20 countries convened for much-needed discussions on urgent climate action, with hundreds of practitioners, researchers, activists and more participating in the second-ever Just Transition Forum in Asia (JTFA).

The forum takes place amidst worsening climate impacts in the region – from ravaging floods in Pakistan that have killed over a thousand people and cost US$10 billion in loss and damage to the unprecedented droughts in China drying up the Yangtze River which 400 million people depend on.

JTFA 2022 brings together United Nations agencies, think tanks, the private, transport and energy sectors, civil society, the labour movement and multilateral development banks, to work together on concretely shaping a socially inclusive and climate-resilient future for Asia.

A transition away from fossil fuels in Asia, specifically a phase-out of coal by 2040, will mitigate further catastrophic impacts and provide opportunities for sustainable development, according to a report by JTFA organisers Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Regional Climate and Energy Project in Asia and Climate Action Network Southeast Asia (CANSEA).

In his keynote speech, Peter Govindasamy said: “we are experiencing the double impact of the energy transition: the effects of climate change and the economic and social impacts of mitigation measures adopted in response to climate change.”

Govindasamy is the Co-chair of the Katowice Committee of Experts on Impacts of the Implementation of Response Measures (KCI) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

He adds: “Just Transition policies are at the nexus of this double impact. Just Transition is necessary to ameliorate the potential adverse economic and social impacts of mitigation measures.”

“Energy transitions are not only socio-technical but deeply socio-political,” says Jenny Yi-Chen Han, Research Associate at the international think tank Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

Han adds: “If existing power asymmetries related to access and resource distribution are not addressed, the same structural inequalities will simply be replicated and transferred over into new energy regimes.”

The pioneering efforts of civil society groups advocating for a just transition from fossil fuels to clean energy in Asia have also inspired its allies worldwide to organise a Global Just Transition Dialogue on the 12th of September, ahead of the COP27 Egypt climate talks in November which are expected to tackle just transition as well as loss and damage.

Quotes from international experts

“Access to knowledge for all stakeholders is key to achieve a Just Transition.“ - Timon Wehnert, Head, Berlin office, Wuppertal Institute

“The fact that humanity will need to transition to more sustainable systems and practices is beyond question. What we do have is a choice - we can use the climate imperative to create positive transformations towards equity and justice or continue with the current unequal and unjust systems, worsening the state of the planet and its people. Just Transition is an opportunity to create those positive transformations.” - Neha Sharma, Senior Evaluation and Learning Specialist, Climate Investment Funds (CIF)

“Without careful and inclusive planning, the urgent and deep change needed to tackle the climate crisis could leave people behind and undermine sustainable development. We are faced with the unprecedented challenge of realizing a just transition, and while this is, of course, a daunting task, the good news is we have a wealth of tools and experiences to draw upon as we work through the challenges ahead.” - Hugh Searight, Operations Officer, CIF

“Many social, economic and environmental issues need to be understood and addressed if the impacts – and benefits – of the transition to a green economy are to be managed in an equitable way. Varied expertise and consistent stakeholder engagement is therefore critical to plan and implement a process for achieving a just transition. Our Just Transition Toolbox highlights some of the strategies and methods for building and maintaining the meaningful engagement of different stakeholders.” - Aaron Atteridge, Senior Climate Change Specialist, CIF

“Factory farming carries a massive, hidden toll on our climate and planet. If factory farming continues to expand, the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement will be impossible to meet, and a climate-safe future will be out of reach.” - Angel Flores, International External Affairs Manager, World Animal Protection

“When considering Just Transition processes for the livestock sector, we must consider an ecosystems approach. Managed well, transitions to environmentally and socially sustainable economies can become a strong driver of job creation, improved protections, and economic and social justice for workers and communities.” - Guna Subramaniam, Southeast Asia Advisor, Institute for Human Rights and Business

“Industrial animal farming is the largest driver of deforestation, land use change, pollution and antibiotic use, perpetuating antimicrobial resistance, viral epidemics and meat consumption related diseases. A just livestock transition and responsibly increasing sustainable and humane proteins while reducing industrial animal proteins is essential for the health of people, animals and the planet.” Kate Blaszak, Director, Sustainable Proteins, Asia Research and Engagement (ARE)

“Rapid urbanisation now intersects with significant shifts in climate variables projected for the 21st century. The future trajectory of urban development will be shaped by how pressing local development challenges and strategic climate goals are balanced, integrated and prioritised. It will need reimagining governance and cooperation between public and private sectors, non-state actors and most of all, local communities.” - Siraz Hirani Senior Programme Management Specialist, Mahila Housing Trust

“Cities of different sizes and shapes host the aspirations of many young people in India. Their future is likely to be affected by emerging environmental challenges. By 2030, we want to experience a city where societies flourish, not just survive. We believe in arriving at political solutions that we seek through active citizens and leaders.” - Arvind Balasubramanian Director, Socratus Foundation for Collective Wisdom

“Participatory art practices in movements have the power to cut across cultural and linguistic barriers and bring people together in a moment of collective engagement. Art can influence the way we think or act. It is a powerful tool to create a positive change in society.” - Tanisha Arora Senior Creative Strategist, Purpose

India

“For an inclusive coal phase down there is need not just for a robust plan but finance. Public finances, though impacted by the phase down, will remain critical and must be supported by private flows. There is a need for concerted thinking by public and private institutions about innovative financial instruments and key sources of finance.” - Suranjali Tandon, Associate Professor, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP)

“Just Transition in an unjust world is the new age rhetoric. Justice demands radical transformation - social, economic and political.” - Simran Grover, CEO and Founder, Bask Research Foundation

“Coal phase down in an economy that is going through structural slow down comes with enormous challenges of equity. Understanding those challenges is key to better planning for a clean and green economy” - Aparna Roy, Fellow and Lead, Climate Change and Energy, Centre for New Economic Diplomacy (CNED) at Observer Research Foundation (ORF)

“Financing for green transition needs to be done with an adequate understanding of what can qualify as green. We need frameworks for that. This will also increase investor confidence.” - Neha Kumar, India Programme Manager for Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI)

“Coal phase down strategy is different from coal phase out strategy. In a way, it is a much more complex proposition. Therefore, unpacking this puzzle in the backdrop of coal phase down is an important question to be dealt with.” – Abhishek Kumar, Founding partner, INDICC Associates

Indonesia

“When we talk about just energy transition, it is imperative that all stakeholders are involved to ensure that no one is left behind.” - Tendy Gunawan, National Programme Officer, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Jakarta Office

“Building workers’ capacity is an essential component of a just energy transition.” - Rita Tambunan, APHEDA/International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Consultant, Innovative Regions for a Just Energy Transition (IKI JET) project in Indonesia

“Including women in just energy transition is key as it will raise their awareness to achieve their rights. This will help them improve their wellbeing and health, economic growth, productivity and efficiency.” - Hening Parlan, Member of Yayasan Mitra Hijau and National Environment Coordinator, National Environment and Disaster Management Institution, Aisyiyah, Indonesia

Thailand

“As the Chair of the Standing Committee on Labour, it is my duties to activate all relevant government agencies to be aware of impact of energy transition on workers and to develop just transition policies for them.” - Mr. Suthep Ou-oun, Member of the House of Representatives, Move Forward Party and Chairperson of the House Committee on Labour

“Politically defending the interests of those who produce fossil fuels is riskier than it once was in light of global warming. Environmental issues won’t be resolved right away, and there won’t be much time to make a just energy transition for workers.” - Assoc.Prof.Dr. Kiriya Kolkulkarn, Faculty of Economics, Thammasat University

“Future energy planning is not just about having sufficient energy at the lowest carbon footprint, but also the ensuring that everybody can survive the transformation change of energy generation shifting and its consequence.” - Assoc. Prof.Dr. Chalie Charoenlarpnopparu, Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (SIIT), Thammasat University

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