Enabling a Just Transition: Protecting Human Rights in Renewable Energy Projects: A Briefing For Policymakers

Agrawal, Hansika; El-Katiri, Laura; Muiruri, Kimathi; Szoke-Burke, Sam

Rapid deployment of renewable energy is critical to protecting people and ecosystems from the climate crisis. Policymakers know this, and the much-needed expansion of existing renewable energy generation is anticipated to accelerate under new legislative measures. To truly serve people and the public interest as intended, this global transformation toward low-carbon, sustainable energy systems must respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Their lands are, and will be, host to large-scale renewable energy projects that, in some instances, have led to land-grabbing and forced displacement.

Land-intensive renewable energy projects can be carried out responsibly. However, if policymakers do not effectively center human rights in the just energy transition, they may inadvertently cause widespread harm to Indigenous Peoples and local communities, including loss of land, livelihoods, and cultural integrity, along with grave impacts on human rights defenders and workers. Further, conflicts over large-scale renewable energy deployment can erode critical popular support for renewable energy technologies, threatening plans to build more sustainable energy systems in the long-term. This could lead to significant reputational, financial, and legal risks for home state governments, host state governments, and development finance institutions (DFIs).

The briefing highlights five key policy priorities that governments, DFIs and intergovernmental organizations should pursue, and outlines diverse strategies that each group of actors can adopt to meet each priority. As part of their just transition efforts, all policymakers must:
1) Recognize and respect human rights, including all legitimate tenure rights,
2) Facilitate meaningful engagement with affected peoples and communities,
3) Advance local-level development, including through co-equity models and benefit sharing,
4) Institute systems to address human and land rights harms, and
5) Protect the safety of environmental, land, and human rights defenders.

Strategies outlined in this briefing include, among other things, participatory land use planning, innovative financing and community support mechanisms, co-equity models, mandatory human rights due diligence frameworks, human rights-aligned investment assessment processes, and environmental and social safeguarding policies.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Published Here
May 11, 2023