‘Transition is inevitable, but justice is not.’ A challenge to social movements in the rich countries

“Clean energy transitions” by rich countries of the global north are producing “a new phase of environmental despoliation of the Global South”, states a manifesto published last week by an alliance of social and environmental organisations.

Protest in Uganda against the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline project. Photo from the Mothers Rise Up twitter feed

“This decarbonisation of the rich, which is market-based and export-oriented, depends on a new phase of environmental despoliation of the Global South, which affects the lives of millions of women, men and children, not to mention non-human life”, the Manifesto for an Ecosocial Energy Transition says.

Women, especially from agrarian societies, are among the most impacted. In this way, “the Global South has once again become a zone of sacrifice, a basket of purportedly inexhaustible resources for the countries of the North.”

As the rich countries secure supply chains for these “clean” transitions, the web of debt and trade agreements in which countries outside the rich world are caught is tightened.

I hope that social movements and the labour movement in the rich countries will not only sign the manifesto (which you can do here), but also – probably more to the point – think about and discuss what it means for us.

For example, the manifesto states:

Minor changes in the energy matrix are not enough. The entire energy system must be transformed, from production and distribution to consumption and waste. Substituting electric vehicles for internal-combustion cars is insufficient, for the entire transportation model needs changing, with a reduction of energy consumption and the promotion of sustainable options.

Solutions to the interlocking crises we face can not be “solely technological”; they are “above all political”, the manifesto says.

An alternative vision to that of hypocritical governments is needed, the manifesto says. “Transition is inevitable, but justice is not.”

It sets out eight political demands, including:

□ Opposition to the “false solutions” put forward “in the name of a green transition”;

□ “Payment of the ecological debt” through “transfer of funds and appropriate technology” and “sovereign debt cancellation”;

□ Rejection of “the expansion of the hydrocarbon border in our countries” through fracking and offshore projects;

□ Opposition to “green colonialism” in the form of land grabs for solar and wind, indiscriminate mining of minerals, and promotion of technofixes such as blue or grey hydrogen;

□ Protection of environmental and human rights defenders; and

□ Elimination of energy poverty “through alternative, decentralised, equitably distributed projects of renewable energy that are owned and  operated by communities themselves”.

A discussion is needed in social movements in the rich countries about how to bring these issues to the centre of our activity. SP, 13 February 2023.

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