There is a lot of rhetoric when it comes to the just transition. Beginning with the adjective chosen to describe this path from a fossil-based energy economy to a zero-emission one based on renewables.
The energy transition has many issues. The loss of traditional jobs is the most evident. Land dispossession is less intuitive but will also be a significant problem – because wind and solar need much more land than fossil fuels to produce the same amount of energy.
All these issues are so plain that potential victims and exploiters agree on one point: if a transition is to be made, it must be fair at least. The need to rebalance the relationship between economic growth and climate protection can no longer be separated from social justice. Energy transition must be an opportunity to rebalance inequalities and social hardships amplified by the present development model.
The Just Transition Fund is the European Union’s Green Deal implementation tool. An instrument made of money (€ 19.32 billion), regulations, and a guiding star: to leave no one behind. “The JTF aims to reduce the social and economic costs resulting from the transition to the EU’s 2030 climate target and the EU climate-neutral economy by 2050, to make sure that no region is left behind. It supports a diversification of economic activity, creating new business opportunities and helping people adapt in a changing labour market.”
Sounds good. But the reality promises to be a different story.
The “Just” rhetoric holds up if the laws and the people behind them align with the principles they claim are their inspiration. Can politicians and lawmakers credibly speak of ‘endeavouring to reach the furthest behind first’ when they protect the status quo daily? How can you speak of inclusion at one point of the agenda and defend your interests from the poorest and the weakest at the next? The ‘leave no one behind’ principle cannot be credibly offered in transforming the energy sector and withdrawn in migration policy. Social justice has no borders.
The show-me-your-passport-first is the ultimate denial of humanity and inclusivity. Sacrificing those values to higher (and less commendable) interests is what happens every day on the Southern border of Europe, on the Mediterranean Sea. And this is what will happen to any vulnerable community within the European Union on the path towards carbon neutrality. The economy remains the priority, far ahead of climate change. Social justice, the first casualty of this new energy trilemma, is out of the equation. Last will stay last.