The transition towards renewable energy for a sustainable future is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. As we face the effects of climate change, it becomes evident that we shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels and towards renewable energy technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal power. However, deploying these technologies poses ethical concerns about fair distribution and equity among different generations. The Doughnut Economy is a concept that can help us address the issues related to sustainability and fairness in our economic system. It envisions an economy that is both restorative and inclusive while staying within the earth’s ecological boundaries.
What is a Just Transition?
A just transition is a fair and inclusive way of moving towards a sustainable economy, considering the needs and rights of workers, communities, and the environment. The concept first emerged from the labour movement which recognized the need to protect workers and their communities during times of economic change, such as the transition away from coal mining or the closure of factories. It involves ensuring that workers and communities affected by this shift are not left behind and that they have access to new job opportunities and training programs. In recent years, the concept of a just transition has gained wider recognition as a means of ensuring that the shift towards a sustainable economy is equitable and does not adversely affect vulnerable populations and that we pass on a healthy and sustainable planet to future generations.
The Doughnut Economy and Distributive Justice
Doughnut Economy: The Doughnut Economy is a model for sustainable development proposed by economist Kate Raworth in 2012. It emphasizes the importance of sustainable development that should operate within the boundaries of the planet’s ecological limits while also ensuring social justice and equality. The Donut Economy model aims to meet the needs of all people while also taking into account the limits of the planet’s resources. The model consists of two concentric circles: an inner circle representing the social foundation for all people with access to essential resources like food, water and energy, and an outer circle representing the ecological ceiling, which sets the limits for resource use and pollution. The goal is to ensure that society achieves a balance between the two circles, where everyone’s needs are met without exceeding the resources of the planet.
Distributive justice refers to the fair distribution of resources and opportunities within society. In the context of renewable energy deployment, distributive justice means ensuring that the benefits and costs of these technologies are distributed fairly across different social groups such as low-income communities that have often borne the brunt of environmental harm.
When it comes to the deployment of renewable energy, the Doughnut economy can help ensure that the benefits of the transition to a low-carbon economy are distributed fairly. One way to achieve this is through community-owned renewable energy projects to ensure that local communities gain benefits instead of large corporations. By ensuring that communities have a stake in the benefits generated by renewable energy technologies, we can help to promote greater social inclusion and economic benefits for local communities. These projects can also help in creating new job opportunities and encourage economic growth at the local level.
There are numerous examples of community-owned renewable energy projects around the world. For instance, in Denmark, most of its total wind power energy comes from wind power cooperatives owned by local communities.
Similarly, in Scotland, the government has invested in community-owned renewable energy projects such as wind farms and social arrays through various initiatives like Community and the Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) which provide economic benefits to local communities while also promoting a shift towards a low-carbon economy.
One successful example of Scotland’s community-based renewable energy project is the wind turbine project led by the Fintry Development Trust. The project involves the installation of two wind turbines on land owned by the local community. The turbines generate adequate electricity to power a lot of households in the area and have helped to reduce a significant amount of carbon emissions. The profits generated from the project are reinvested in the community supporting local initiatives such as energy efficiency measures and community events.
Another way to promote equal distribution of benefits from the deployment of renewable energy is through policies that prioritize investments in low-income and marginalized communities which can help address past injustices and promote greater equity.
Intergenerational Equity and Renewable Energy
Now, what on Earth is Intergenerational Equity?
Intergenerational equity is a concept that highlights that current generations have a responsibility to pass on a healthy and sustainable planet to future generations. It acknowledges that our present deeds have the potential to impact future generations and emphasizes the importance of ensuring that our actions today don’t make it harder for people to have the things they need to live. The concept of intergenerational equity is particularly relevant in the context of renewable energy deployment where the transition to a low-carbon economy is crucial for addressing climate change and securing a sustainable future.
The Doughnut economy provides a useful framework for promoting intergenerational equity. It promotes regenerative practices that involve working with nature to restore ecosystems and promote biodiversity, while also producing food, fibre and other goods. The Doughnut Economy acknowledges that our current economic system is based on a linear model of growth and consumption that is not sustainable in the long term. Therefore, it calls for a circular economy that prioritizes regenerative practices while acknowledging the limits of the planet’s resources.
Regenerative practices can be promoted in renewable energy deployment by avoiding the use of fossil fuels in the production and transportation of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power.
There are various examples of regenerative renewable energy projects being implemented globally.
For instance, in India, the Dharnai Solar Microgrid Project uses solar power to provide electricity to a village while also encouraging organic farming and other regenerative practices. The project was launched in 2012 by Greenpeace India in collaboration with local organizations and communities to provide electricity to the village of Dharnai in Bihar, where the residents had been living without electricity for over 30 years. The project involved setting up a solar microgrid system which is a decentralized energy generation and distribution system that utilizes solar panels to generate electricity.
The project not only provides electricity but also promotes regenerative practices such as organic farming and composting. A community center was established to educate farmers on organic farming techniques. Additionally, a waste management system was also introduced that converts organic waste into compost, which is then used as a natural fertilizer for farming. As a result, the Dharnai Solar Microgrid Project has improved the living standards of the people of the village through access to clean and sustainable energy. It has also created job opportunities and stimulated economic development in the region.
Another example from India is that of the Muppandal Wind Farm in Tamil Nadu. Established in the 1980s by Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA), it’s the largest wind farm in India and the third largest in the world. With a total installed capacity of 1500 MW, the wind farm has the capacity to power over a million homes. the project has been successful in reducing carbon emissions and promoting sustainable energy practices in the region. It has also had a positive impact on the local economy by creating job opportunities and promoting economic development.
To sum up, the transition to a sustainable low-carbon economy is an urgent challenge that requires a fair and equitable approach. The Doughnut Economy provides a useful framework for promoting intergenerational equity and distributive justice. By encouraging community involvement and ownership, and energy efficiency and conservation measures, we can ensure that the advantages are distributed fairly and that we leave a planet that is both sustainable and healthy for generations to come. This approach is not just a moral responsibility but also the need of the hour to mitigate the impact of climate change. Examples from around the world, including India show that a just transition is achievable, and the principles of the Doughnut economy can lead us towards a future that is both sustainable and fair.