Key Issues

Just Transition and Energy Policy 

The Philippines and Indonesia each cultivate their own economic focus. The Philippines has developed a strong service sector and agricultural sector (rice cultivation). Industrial exports include electronic products, machines and transport equipment. The country went ahead with plans to mine 340,000 tonnes of copper and 350,000 ounces of gold annually in 2016. In the past, it focused on producing nickel. Indonesia’s economy is based almost exclusively on the export of raw materials including gold, copper, nickel ore as well as wood and agricultural products (rice, peanuts, cocoa, coffee) and textiles. Indonesia is also the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and the world’s largest palm oil producer. 

In both countries, economic development is tied to the exploitation of coal. In the Philippines, there are plans to construct 55 power plants. Bringing them into operation would trigger a surge in the share of coal-based electricity from the current 35 per cent to around 70 per cent by 2030. Indonesia is presently the world’s largest exporter of thermal coal, which is burnt for energy in China, India and other Asian countries. But the people who suffer from the impacts of mining the most are of course those living in heavy mining regions. Many people face losing their land, and are forced to give up their way of life to find new sources of income. They are also exposed to considerable environmental pollution and new health risks. Adding to this is rainforest logging, which causes similar problems in both countries.

The political challenges arising from this development become even more delicate if we take into account socio-environmental dimensions and the country’s climate change commitments. Short-term and unjust solutions must be weighed against the need to ensure long-term structural change and just transitions. Bearing this in mind, we seek to analyse and define contexts in which just transitions can (a) move away from conventional forms of energy production and distribution and increase the use of renewable energies, and (b) be aligned with the right to socially equitable development.

Misguided climate protection strategies, climate change adaptation measures, and the financialization of nature

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol introduced flexible climate protection mechanisms devised to help states meet their minimum obligations through investments in so-called “climate protection projects” outside their own territories. It gave birth to the EU emissions trading system as well as the three mechanisms laid out in the Kyoto Protocol: CDM, JI and emissions trading. The 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen then addressed possible approaches to stopping deforestation by introducing compensation payments embedded in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The outcome of these discussions was the REDD+ mechanism. What these instruments share, on the one hand, is their focus: they are not designed as direct, but rather as indirect attempts to remove the causes of greenhouse gas emissions. On the other, they involve the financialization of nature. The REDD+ model, for instance, assigns economic value to the carbon stored in forests. This principle is now also part of climate change adaptation strategies, for instance in the form of climate risk insurance solutions for small farmers.

These approaches have profound effects. Our work aims to highlight these instruments’ negative social and environmental side effects while at the same time offering up, and continually developing, alternatives to these often misguided approaches. 

Climate change-driven migration

The immediate impacts of climate change on the environment or the weather, along with indirect impacts which can trigger economic problems or conflicts, force many people to flee their homes. Estimates concerning the number of climate migrants vary. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) predicts that, in the future, 10-25 per cent of all migration flows will be caused by climate change and its impacts. Climate migration is mostly a domestic or cross-border phenomenon, primarily in the Global South, which is why it has rarely been the subject of international debate. This is one of the main reasons why there are neither institutions nor standards of protection analogous to the Geneva Refugee Convention that climate refugees can call upon. In the final agreement adopted at the UN climate talks in Cancún (2010), the parties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to define migration, relocation and flight as challenges emerging as a result of societies’ attempts to adapt to climate change. Still lacking, however, are analyses highlighting the ways in which the impacts of climate-induced changes and a country’s social and political situation are interlinked. Such analyses would enable us to better assess the broader context and develop adequate solutions. This is where our programme will begin its work, placing a particular focus on the small island states of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.