Achieving a just transition

On Tuesday morning we virtually attended the 'Achieving a Just Transition: Climate Change Mitigation Success Stories From Around The Globe' side event at COP23. The session was split into two halves; the first half was heavily focused on the just transition aspect of the talk. Speakers were mainly representatives from pacific islands, sharing stories of their climate activism, talking about how climate change has affected the lives and lifestyles of Pacifika, and talking about the responsibility of Pacific nations as leaders in climate change mitigation activism, as well as the responsibility of the "economic north" to lower emissions in order to help preserve the lives and homes of pacific islanders. This was highlighted by Fiji's presidency of COP23.

The role of pacific islands as leaders as opposed to being victims of climate change was especially emphasised. This provides Pacifika with agency and puts power in their hands. One of the speakers drove home the importance of this, by highlighting that technical but unsafe solutions, such as Geoengineering, are problematic, and these solutions should be avoided. The needs of Pacific Islanders, and the effects of climate change were detailed; we heard stories of the response to a category 5 cyclone in Fiji, and how adaptation was a part of the skill-set islanders have developed to deal with climate change. The changes were detailed by one of the speakers, a Pacific Island Climate Warrior, as having affected the lifestyle of island children, who are unable to play on many of the beaches, which have been washed away.

Another contentious point was the soundbite that "the age of coal is over". This assertion was challenged by a questioner, who said that the short-term decline in coal emissions had to be looked at through a sober lens, and that soundbites like that could be "damaging to the movement". Coal was a topic that came up often; stopping the use of coal was a key point in mitigating the effects to island nations. The UK and Canada were cited as examples of countries who have pledged to stop producing power from coal, by 2025. Australia on the other hand, was "named-and-shamed" as a country opening new mines for export, despite a great deal of both grassroots and national/political campaigning by pacific islanders to stop coal production.

The second half dealt with the latter half of the subject title. Four success stories were given, broadly separated into two categories- land use, and energy use. The four speakers talked about: Japanese forestry conservation, observing and analysing peat fires in Indonesia, renewable cities in Germany, and renewable energy uptake in Italy. All four were examples of how focused policy change, and dedicated science and engineering solutions could help enormously to contribute to climate change mitigation and observation.

One of the most striking statistics delivered was that during the warm months, 97% of Indonesia's CO2 output was due to peat fires, which put its emissions/day higher than the total combined emissions from the EU!

All four speakers were interesting, and the changes being made in order to mitigate climate change were inspirational; the chair rightly explained that the purpose of the session had been to give examples of these types of schemes, and support to any other attempts to do the same. The hope was that this would provide real, practical ways to meet the targets set out in the Paris agreement.