Towards a just energy system

Towards a just energy system

Date: 7 October 2014

This autumn will see the launch of a new phase of WDM’s energy and climate change campaign, which will be a campaign for energy justice. In the eight years since WDM started working on these issues, our focus has shifted as policies and attitudes have changed – and we’ve had some real successes to show for this, from a stronger climate change act and stopping a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth to getting the majority of the UK’s climate finance as grants not loans.

WDM as a whole is making new efforts to campaign in ways that make links between injustice in the UK and globally, and make sure we have a positive vision as well as fighting the bad stuff. It’s something we’ve started doing through our support for the global food sovereignty movement, which brings together millions of people to fighting for a just and sustainable food system.

A similar positive framework hasn’t yet been developed in the same way for energy – but there is broad agreement that corporate control of energy systems has failed to ensure everyone has access to the energy they need and that those who produce energy are fairly treated. It’s also clear that a radical transformation is needed to prevent both local environmental damage and catastrophic climate change. This is something we’ve shown time and again through our campaigning – most recently with our work highlighting and challenging the role of the UK financial sector in bankrolling destructive energy projects.

The problem is not that there isn’t enough energy to go round or that there wouldn’t be if it was produced in a sustainable way, but rather that it is currently distributed in a way that is grossly unfair. This energy injustice is most obvious in places like oil-rich Nigeria, where 90 per cent of the population lack access to electricity while oil is pumped out of the country by multinational corporations to rich western markets.

We need energy systems that are both fair to energy consumers and workers and work within planetary limits. Big business has failed on both counts, so around the world people are taking back control of energy themselves.

Different communities have different needs and are able to tap different sources of energy, so it’s clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. But from energy cooperatives in Costa Rica to German cities like Hamburg bringing their electricity supply back into the hands of local government, it’s clear that it can be done.

WDM’s new energy justice campaign will have a number of different strands. As part of our struggle against energy injustice, we’ll be continuing our solidarity work with groups in Bangladesh, Colombia and Indonesia fighting corporations that are pushing dirty energy projects that are destroying their communities and the climate while failing to provide the energy that they need. We’ll also be making the links with other groups fighting corporate control of energy and for fair, sustainable and democratically-controlled energy systems.

One way we’ll be doing this is highlighting and challenging the UK government’s support for corporate control of energy around the world. There’s more information on this aspect of the campaign coming soon, but for now, you can check out our new briefing which explores the idea of energy justice and the different ways people around the world are working towards it.

Photo: Duvha power station, South Africa. 44% of South Africa’s electricity is used by just 36 companies. Credit: Greenpeace