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💬 "What Does a 'Just Transition' Look Like?"

The Interchange

Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Stephen Lacey
Guest: Sandeep Pai | Senior Research Lead | Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Category: 💬 Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[13:33] “[In] countries where the climate moment is very strong, […] US, Australia, Germany, the West, where there is increasing pressure on governments to move away from fossil fuels, […] there is more of a conversation about this topic. I would say there's more awareness about this topic compared to the rest of the world. Then we take countries like India and China, which have huge fleets of very young power plants, very different from the West where the power plants average age is something like 40, [whereas] in India and China is like 16 or 11. […] So for these countries, these conversations haven't even started. And that is problematic. I mean, it's problematic for both levels. Because where the conversation has started, we are not really seeing, except one or two cases, really solid, just transition plans. It's more at this stage [of]  we need to do something and let's transition all these workers into renewable energy […], which is not really feasible. And for countries like India, this conversation hasn't even started. But the scale of dependence on these jobs are much higher in these countries.”

[18:22] “Generally the working class doesn't believe that something will come of this.  […] In one of my own research, we show that there is a complete mismatch between areas suitable for solar and wind power in India, China, Australia, and [the] US […] from a pure techno economic suitability point of view […]. Now, you could believe that some [people] would move, but it's not easy to […] wrap up everything […]. So […] I think that there is some suspicion that this is not going to happen. One problem is that we don't have a lot of evidence of this happening well. And the second problem is that right now, all of these conversations are pretty much at conversation and dialogue stage. And even in those countries, there's no sort of like real hardcore plans of […] you're guaranteed [a job], […] these are the five plans I will implement. So I think that's something that is missing.”

[20:32] “There was a paper about OECD countries. And they looked at all the retraining programs and the outcomes related to that. And it was pretty clear that most people who found jobs A went to retail industries, or some sort, and B had to settle with […] much lower paying jobs. And […] I think it's important to add here that in most countries direct fossil fuel jobs are very well paid jobs. […] When we think about North America, and Europe, and the private companies, which run these fossil fuel industries, they pay their workers fine. But when you look at [the] majority of where the fossil fuel production happens, the Middle East India, China, like 60% of fossil fuel production is done by government owned companies. So they have a dual mandate to produce energy, but also engage in welfare of the country and citizens.”

[22:42] “I think that one of the few good examples comes from hard coal mining in Germany. […] Hard coal mining sort of was, you know, economically more expensive than imported coal. And so from an economics point of view, it made sense to shut down these mines, but […] politically, it was hard. So the German government both at the federal level, and at the state […] came together, along with a very strong and powerful union that was operating in that region, and came up with a just transition plan. And there [were] two distinct features of that plan that I think is often […] a benchmark in this space. One is that they guarantee that any worker who has worked for 20 years can, at the age of 48, can sort of retire and get a stipend, which was good. And at the end, when they retire, they'll continue to get pension. And all the younger workers had sort of gotten a guaranteed job and retrain[ed]. […] So that went down really well. And they made this as a long term plan for 10 years. So this plan was made in 2007. And subsequently updated. And the last hard coal mining was finished in Germany in 2018.”

[24:38] “Right now, the problem in the just transition space is that many people groups governments are completely sort of doing it on their own and there is no coordinated planning. So if I were to start thinking about an important element of just transition, my first would be an over encompassing element of […] long term strategic planning, where you create a mechanism by which the federal government and the states or the provinces and the local governments, who would be impacted, as long as well as the workers and the union representatives come together and negotiate a plan that makes economic and political sense.”

[32:06] “If we just focus on, for example, direct jobs, then in the US, you really need 600 million [dollars] a year […] to guarantee wages for five years for fossil fuel workers who lose their employment. And that their scenario is also that the US reduces emissions by 40% by 2035. So it's not talking about all workers. And it's not a complete 100% fossil fuel phased out. But if you reduce emissions by 40%, and its impact on coal, oil and natural gas, the country would need 600 million per year. Which I would argue […] compared to the  trillions of dollars of bailout packages we're talking about, it seems that it's feasible.

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🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 46 min | 🗓️ 08/18/2021
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