It is clear that the end of the fossil fuel era is on the horizon. Between plummeting renewable energy costs, uncharted electric vehicle growth, government commitments to decarbonization enshrined in the Paris agreement, and a growing list of fossil fuel project cancellations in the face of massive public opposition and bad economics, the writing’s on the wall.
The question now becomes: What does the path from here to zero carbon look like? Is it ambitious enough to avoid locking in emissions that we can’t afford? Is it intentional enough to protect workers and communities that depend on the carbon-based economy that has gotten us this far? Is it equitable enough to recognize that some countries must move further, faster? And is it honest enough about the reality that a decline of fossil fuels is actually a good thing?
In short – will this be a managed decline of fossil fuel production, or an unmanaged decline? What is the plan?
Let’s take a closer look:
Is the plan ambitious: Is it fast enough to avoid dangerous climate change?
Without efforts to limit this production growth, a variation on one of two themes will unfold: 1. We will miss climate limits and global climate change will be catastrophic, or 2. A much more dramatic future halt and decline of production will be significantly more economically and socially disruptive.
Why wouldn’t you prepare to ensure the decline is as non-disruptive as possible, but also fast enough to avoid the worst climate impacts? Is the plan fair: Does it prepare for a just transition that will protect workers and puts communities first?
Speed and ambition is paramount: As the International Trade Union Confederation grimly puts it, there are no jobs on a dead planet. But a key element of a managed decline is that it must come hand-in-hand with a just transition for jobs and communities that have become dependent on the production of fossil fuels. Everyone can recognize the role fossil fuels have played in the development of the global economy, and everyone should recognize the workers and communities that have made these sectors thrive and provided the world with energy. A critical part of this transition is acknowledging that those workers and communities require and deserve support as their livelihoods change.
Trade unions and others have developed a framework for a just transition in relation to climate change, the importance of which is recognized in the preamble of the Paris Agreement. Key elements of a just transition include: Sound investments in low-emission and job-rich sectors and technologies;
Social dialogue and democratic consultation of social partners – trade unions and employers – and other stakeholders, such as communities; Research and early assessment of the social and employment impacts of climate policies; Training and skills development to support the deployment of new technologies and foster industrial change; Social protection alongside active labor market policies; and
Local economic diversification plans that support decent work and provide community stability in the transition.
It is also important to note that the fossil fuel economy, while a massive employer, is not always a good employer. Workers and communities have oftentimes been taken advantage of in the boom and abandoned in the bust. We need a transition plan that will not just create new jobs, but that will create good new jobs.
Fossil fuel extraction has impacted tens of thousands of communities around the world, and more often than not, it is marginalized populations that bear the brunt of the impacts of living and working on the frontlines of the fossil fuel economy.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Fossil Fuels Are Killing Us. So What’s The Plan?’.