Financing Just Energy Transitions: the Importance of Ensuring Civic Space in Addressing the Climate Crisis event at the World Bank

International Rivers’ Josh Klemm moderated the panel, “Financing Just Energy Transitions: the Importance of Ensuring Civic Space in Addressing the Climate Crisis” at the World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington, DC on April 14.

Read Josh Klemm’s opening remarks:

Welcome to those in the room and joining online. Today’s event comes at an important moment. The latest IPCC reports show that we’ve nearly run out of time to have a chance to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Despite these dire warnings, governments are not doing enough to transition away from dirty energy.

What movement we have seen to ween ourselves off fossil fuels – in the US, South Africa, and many parts of the world – has come as a result of sustained people power. Civil society, as is often the case, has been at the vanguard of the effort to arrest the climate crisis and embrace a cleaner, more sustainable, and just world.

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Yet in many parts of the world, progress on climate change is under threat as climate leaders – whether journalists, grassroots advocates, Indigenous communities, or NGOs – have faced a growing crackdown from governments and powerful vested interests. This happens in the form of harassment, lawsuits, threats, imprisonment, and even killings.

Against this backdrop, and off the back of COP26 in Glasgow – and under considerable public pressure – we’ve seen Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) emerge as a means of accelerating the clean energy transition and shutting down some of the worst sources of climate pollution. On balance, this is a welcome step, even if support from the G7, private and public banks, is coming largely in the form of loans rather than grants. South Africa was the first to sign up last year, followed by Indonesia and Vietnam.

With many more such deals in the making, plus any number of bilateral and multilateral climate deals and projects, it’s an important moment to reflect on what protections exist to ensure that civil society can play its necessary role in ensuring that climate plans are credible in how they’re prepared and that they are effective in how they are implemented. This is a critical factor in ensuring that just energy partnerships are indeed, “Just”.

The track record thus far is worrying. As you will hear today, climate leaders in Vietnam who were instrumental in pushing Vietnam to make strong commitments to phase out coal – winning their government’s and universal praise – have since been imprisoned for their advocacy. We will hear from researcher Bruce Shoemaker as well as Jessica Nguyen of Project 88 about the ongoing situation for climate leaders in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the Indonesia JETP has been agreed without any real consultation with Indonesian civil society, undermining the plan’s credibility and likelihood of success. We’re happy Andri Prasetiyo from Trend Asia is here to tell us about the experience in Indonesia.

So this panel, then, will interrogate the importance of ensuring civic space in energy transition plans, and particularly the role of development finance institutions (DFIs) who are playing a central role in mobilizing and contributing their funds to implement these plans. What mechanisms and safeguards exist, or should there be, to protect the voice of civil society, which is critical to the success of the energy transition? How should DFIs respond when climate leaders are unjustly imprisoned or threatened? We have representatives from the World Bank and the Climate Investment Fund to speak about their experiences and offer their perspectives.

Global Witness’ video was shown: “Stand with Bach: Jailed environmental lawyer in Vietnam”

Panel Speakers:

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Bruce Shoemaker, author, and independent researcher on the Mekong River basin region spoke about his colleague and friend Goldman Prize winner Nguy Thi Khanh and other jailed climate leaders including Dang Dinh Bach.

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Jessica Nguyen of The 88 Project spoke about how the charge of “tax evasion” in Vietnam is being used and abused for the systematic silencing of climate leaders. She asks, “How can this be a Just Energy Transition if leaders like Dang Dinh Bach are in jail?”

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Andri Prasetiyo of Trend Asia spoke about a development approach that includes human rights and benefits people and communities not just the wealthy or connected few.

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Aly Rahim of the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Social Accountability initiative discussed the need for change and new mechanisms that protect civil society, climate leaders and human rights to ensure we meet our climate goals and for a true just energy transition.

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Dr. Nina Kolybashkina of Climate Investment Fund highlighted the importance of civil society in creating a better world and a true just energy transition.

International Rivers’ Josh Klemm wrapped up the event by speaking on the importance of freeing the four climate leaders in jail as well as ensuring civil society is free to exercise freedom of expression, association, and assembly especially as they play an essential ‘watchdog’ role ensuring a truly just transition.