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Friends of the Earth International believes that it is possible to transform our current corporate-controlled, unsustainable and unjust global energy system into one that is climate-safe, just and sustainable, that respects the rights and different ways of life of communities around the world, and that meets the basic right to energy for everyone, without the extensive destructive impacts of current energy sources. As the 2010 Cochabamba Declaration stated: “It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And in order for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings.”
Below we attempt to lay out what we consider to be the main features of a just, sustainable climate-safe energy system. This vision is guided by the principle of energy sovereignty, which is the right of people to have access to energy, and to choose sustainable energy sources and sustainable consumption patterns that will lead them towards sustainable societies. This vision is an initial proposal. It is not final and some aspects are still subject to different views and considerable discussion within our own federation. We believe that to transform the energy system we need to forge a collective vision among all those who have an interest in, and are pushing and mobilising for, this transformation. This is Friends of the Earth International’s initial contribution to that important conversation.
Key features of a just, sustainable, climate-safe energy system:
1. Provides energy access for all as a basic human right
Access to energy is a basic human right and a necessary condition of a dignified life. Everyone will have access to sufficient sustainable, clean, safe, affordable, reliable and appropriate energy to meet their energy requirements for a dignified life. This means adequate energy for:
- lighting, heating and cooking
- ensuring clean water supplies for adequate sanitation
- ensuring access to essential public services like hospitals and schools
- pumping water for irrigation and to run small-scale agricultural industries and other small businesses
- communication, entertainment, and climate-safe recreation.
2. Climate-safe and based on locally-appropriate, low-impact technologies
Energy will be generated from climate-safe sources with low social and environmental impacts. This means no energy sources that:
- are high carbon or produce significant quantities of other dangerous greenhouse gas emissions through their production, combustion, distribution, or the direct or indirect land use change that they give rise to
- abuse the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples
- result in deforestation or forest degradation
- result in the production of toxic waste
- result in significant air, land or water pollution
- deplete non-renewable resources
Energy technologies will also be appropriate to the needs of the communities who are using them and to their local and regional environmental, economic, social and cultural contexts.
3. Under direct democratic control and governed in the public interest
Energy is a common good. In a just energy system energy infrastructure and resources are therefore under direct democratic control. Decisions about the production and use of energy:
- are democratic, participative, open and accountable
- prioritise social outcomes, including energy access, fairness, environmental sustainability, and dignified work
- are governed by the principle of subsidiarity, with decisions delegated to the most local and least centralised level possible, while also allowing for sub-regional, national and regional planning and coordination
- give adequate power to all directly-affected groups to influence decisions, including energy users, energy sector workers, and people who are excluded from energy systems
- respect the rights of communities to define their energy needs and how these needs are met in accordance with their cultures and ways of life, as long as these choices do not have destructive impacts on other people and communities
4. Ensures the rights of energy sector workers, and their influence over how their workplaces are run
Workers involved in all aspects of the energy system are assured of their basic rights, including the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, a living wage, safe, secure and dignified work, and influence over how energy infrastructure is developed and run.
5. Ensures the right to free, prior and informed consent and rights of redress for affected communities
The construction of new energy infrastructure will be done on the basis of the free, prior and informed consent and appropriate compensation / remuneration of affected communities and will respect the other rights of Indigenous Peoples and affected communities, and customary law. The same holds for the extraction of any material inputs needed to build energy infrastructure and develop and produce energy technologies.
6. As small-scale and decentralised as possible
Energy infrastructure, including supply and distribution, will be decentralised as much as possible. This is the case where energy solutions come from local opportunities at both small and community scale, and where energy is generated at or near the point of use, and either connected to a local distribution network system, supplying homes and offices rather than the high-voltage transmission system, or as stand-alone systems entirely separate from the public network.
Decentralisation will help ensure energy access for people in remote and rural areas; will facilitate subsidiarity and community or local ownership and control; and will reduce energy wastage in distribution because energy and heat will be produced close to the point of use. Some large-scale renewable energy infrastructure such as large-scale wind or concentrated solar energy may be needed to complement decentralised supply to large towns and cities and essential public services and infrastructure. However, decision making over any such large-scale infrastructure will be subject to the democratic and participative decision-making process set out above, and subject to rigorous testing to ensure that measures to reduce energy dependence have already been exhausted and that the end use of the energy produced has high social importance or value.
7. Ensures fair and balanced energy use and minimum energy waste
Energy use is broadly fair and balanced globally and within countries, economical, and with minimum energy waste.