Philanthropists support justice for workers in green energy deals, ET EnergyWorld

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KUALA LUMPUR/NEW DELHI/JOHANNESBURG: Philanthropists are stepping up to ensure vulnerable workers and their communities are not left behind as developing countries strike multibillion-dollar climate deals to shut down fossil fuel power plants and increase investments in green energy.

Last year, Vietnam and Indonesia joined the South Africa by entering into a “Just Energy Transition Partnership” (JETP) – a funding program from governments and wealthy banks to help emerging economies phase out coal while creating green jobs – followed by Senegal last June.

As governments and banks grapple with how promised funding will be distributed and spent, philanthropic donors are looking for ways to help communities now dependent on fossil fuels make the most of the opportunities presented by renewable energy deployment.

IKEA Foundation launched a four-year, $20 million program in September aimed at making energy transitions in Indonesia, South Africa and Vietnam fair and beneficial to communities – which it hopes other charities will join.

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“We want at least $100 million over the next five years,” said Sahba Chauhan, head of the climate engagement program at the IKEA Foundation in The Hague.

The new initiative – a joint venture with US-based ClimateWorks Foundation – plans to support workers facing the closure of coal mines and power plants by facilitating negotiations at local and national levels on how to achieve a “just transition”.

Chauhan said funding would be provided to pilot projects, businesses and entrepreneurs creating alternative industries like renewable energy, as well as civil society groups already working locally on a clean energy transition.

“We are focusing on areas where national governments have already imposed coal shutdowns and phase-downs,” she said.

The IKEA Foundation’s new funding follows commitments made at the COP26 UN climate summit in 2021, where it joined the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, amounting to $1 .5 billion dollars.

At COP27 in 2022, philanthropic groups committed an additional $500 million over three years to accelerate a just energy transition in low- and middle-income countries.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement to combat global warming, around 195 countries agreed to reduce their emissions over the coming decades, reaching net zero emissions in the second half of the century.

But most developing countries still rely on fossil fuels for the electricity supply they need to grow their economies and reduce poverty – and many struggle with high debt levels, which pushed them to appeal to rich countries and private donors to finance their transition. to cleaner energy.

Globally, the renewable energy sector is growing as investment increases – particularly in solar energy – boosting capacity, production and employment opportunities.

But the shift away from coal, oil and gas will impact around 32 million people working in carbon-intensive industries, according to the IKEA Foundation.

Clear and detailed plans to retrain these workers and offer them new sources of income will be crucial to limiting economic, social and political impacts, the statement added.

“This initiative is a seed that we hope will grow in other parts of the world,” said Jason Andersonsenior program director at the nonprofit ClimateWorks Foundation.


Leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies agreed last month on a goal of tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030 and focused on promoting “alternative sources.” clean energy like green hydrogen.

The G20 also called for energy transitions to be inclusive and “leave no one behind”.

But climate campaigns such as We20, an alliance of nearly 100 civil society groups and individuals from across India, said there were few signs so far that this would happen. significantly.

For example, G20 host India and several other G20 countries include hydroelectric and nuclear power in their clean energy plans, despite their potential for negative environmental and social impact, the Indian environmentalist said Ashish Kothari.

At the same time, G20 forums say little about decentralized renewable energy – such as rooftop solar systems and microgrids – which can help lay the foundations for a fair, job-creating transition, a- he added.

The We20 group also highlighted issues related to the acquisition of agricultural land and forests for large-scale renewable energy installations, which resulted in loss of livelihoods and food security for villagers and indigenous people in India.

Helping communities take the lead

South Africa, Africa’s largest carbon emitter, has been at the forefront of the just transition debate, with the country set to receive $8.5 billion in grants and loans from United States, Great Britain and European Union countries to accelerate its shift away from coal, under the first JETP announced in 2021.

But additional philanthropic contributions are essential because governments themselves are not showing leadership in supporting clean and just energy projects on a large enough scale, said South African human rights activist Kumi . Naidoo.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to have to draw on a diversity of resources from different places,” said Naidoo, a former director of Greenpeace International and Amnesty International and now a senior adviser to the Community Arts Network, an activist global. band.

Sayak Datapartner at management consultancy Kearney in Singapore, agrees that just energy transitions will require significant investments from a variety of sources: government budgets, corporate and private investors, and philanthropic foundations.

Indonesia, for example, received $29 million in grants from 15 donors for 92 grantees working on issues related to the environment and just transition between 2019 and 2023, Datta said.

This includes money from the Ford Foundation to develop a renewable energy knowledge center for community entrepreneurs.

Grants from foundations or individual donors can be deployed quickly and directly to areas of need, especially in remote locations, and often with a greater tolerance for risk, Datta added.

Naidoo said the philanthropic money would help the Global South avoid taking on more loans that land them in “policy and implementation traps” – and allow communities to “rule themselves”.

The key to successful funding, whatever the source, is transparency, consultation with grassroots organizations and good governance to ensure the money goes where it is most needed, Naidoo said.

“If we don’t do this, we have no chance of achieving a just and meaningful transition in South Africa or anywhere else in the world,” he added. (Report by Michael Taylor, Bhasker Tripathi And Kim Harrisberg @kimharrisberg; edited by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

  • Published on October 6, 2023 at 11:11 am IST

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