Climate change is a social issue
A growing number of cities around the world are taking an inclusive approach to the energy transition that benefits all of society and leaves nobody behind. Commitment to the seventh UN Sustainable Development Goal “to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” is essential for global peace and prosperity
Bottom line: Inclusive action, whereby all residents including the poorest and most vulnerable are encouraged to be involved in projects and decisions, will likely help accelerate the energy transition and climate mitigation and adaption in cities
Action: Initiatives worldwide are bringing together different stakeholders to ensure that the change to cleaner sources of energy and its more efficient use benefits everyone, not just those who can traditionally afford to shift direction
Key quote: The language being used to communicate about climate change does not resonate with a lot of people. It reaches those who are already converted, but not those who may struggle to pay energy bills
On the rooftops of social housing estates in the neighbourhoods of Hackney and Brixton in London, UK, community-owned solar projects facilitated by the non-profit Repowering London are producing clean energy and helping tackle fuel poverty. Aside from guaranteeing small returns to investors, a portion of profits from electricity generation is ploughed back into neighbourhood initiatives and energy efficiency education. Job training and internships are available for local youths.
Agamemnon Otero, co-CEO of Repowering London, believes the fact cooperative projects such as those in Hackney and Brixton bring renewable energy to vulnerable citizens are only a small part of the story. “Large-scale solar and massive wind turbines off the coast can help do that too, but they are not changing behaviour,” he says. “Our work is more about changing behaviour.”
Behavioural changes may include residents cutting back on energy use, leading to lower electricity bills and emissions and making a small contribution to the energy transition. “But you also bring the community a sense of self-worth and independence. You enter into a social contract with a business case for renewable energy, which shows that even when the government or a charity stops supporting something, you can still have control of your destiny,” Otero adds.
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