Tackling Energy Poverty for a Just Transition: Building a Greener and Fairer Future
Energy poverty is a pressing issue impacting millions of people across Europe. The challenges posed by the green transition and the cost-of-living crisis have further exacerbated the plight of the most vulnerable. However, amidst these challenges, there is a growing recognition of the need for a just transition—one that prioritizes social equity, workers’ rights, community engagement, gender equity, digital inclusion, and environmental sustainability.
On July 18, 2023, the European Anti-Poverty Network (EAPN) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) organized an insightful event titled “Energising Equity: Uniting voices to confront Energy Poverty for a Just Transition.” The event aims to shine a light on energy poverty within the context of sustainable development. By amplifying the voices of those directly affected, the event seeks to foster a comprehensive understanding, identify innovative solutions, and promote inclusivity in energy access and transition.
Magnitude of Energy Poverty
Energy poverty statistics reveal the severity of the situation in Europe. In 2019, almost 80 million people in the European Union struggled to pay their utility bills, showcasing the dire circumstances many faced. By the end of 2021, one in four European households grappled with the difficult choice between heating their homes or providing food for their families. Shockingly, inadequate housing conditions linked to energy poverty led to an estimated 100,000 premature deaths annually across Europe.
Role of the Green Transition and the Cost-of-Living Crisis
While the green transition is crucial for combating climate change and ensuring sustainability, it comes with its unique set of challenges. In Europe, the energy crisis in Ukraine highlighted the urgency to diversify energy sources, as the region heavily relied on Russia for fossil fuels. Simultaneously, the cost-of-living crisis exacerbated the hardships faced by vulnerable communities, as rising energy prices forced many to compromise on essential energy services. Addressing these interconnected challenges holistically is vital for achieving lasting and equitable solutions.
Importance of a Just Transition
Energy is not merely a commodity; it is a public good and a fundamental right. The EAPN emphasizes the need to ensure energy accessibility and affordability for everyone, regardless of the provider being public or private. A just transition demands a comprehensive approach, encompassing social justice, worker protection, community involvement, gender equality, bridging the digital divide, and environmental sustainability.
Creating a Holistic Dialogue
The “Energising Equity” event serves as an open platform for dialogue, inviting diverse stakeholders, including experts, policymakers, and individuals with lived experiences of energy poverty. By centering the voices of those affected, the event aims to gain invaluable insights, share experiences, and generate innovative solutions. Including perspectives of those most impacted is essential for developing effective policies and interventions that leave no one behind. Speaking of which, young people are among those who struggle to find decent jobs and pay their bills due to energy poverty. Through #GreenerFuture project, Volonteurope and partners engage with stakeholders and young people in defining green jobs and equipping those young people with green skills which eventually allow them to find decent jobs and cope with energy poverty.
Volonteurope’s Involvement in the #GreenerFuture Project
Volonteurope is deeply engaged in an Erasmus+ #GreenerFuture project funded by the European Union and led by a consortium of four organizations, two of which are our esteemed members: Alianza por la Solidaridad – ActionAid (Spain), WeWorld (Italy), and ActionAid Denmark (Denmark). In cooperation with Traza Territorio, we are thrilled to announce the publication of our consortium’s diagnosis and mapping on green employment and social and sustainable entrepreneurship, entitled “Green Employment or Green Washing.” This report represents a gender and generation approach to an ecological and just transition of our economies. The research is used as a base to help improve the capacity of organizations to train, guide, and advise young people in developing the skills needed to apply for green jobs within the framework of the solidarity economy and the transformation of economic sectors towards cleaner technologies.
Promoting Young Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Models
The study also serves to promote young entrepreneurship towards new sustainable models, fostering stable work integration while ensuring environmental care and combatting climate change. By encouraging young people to embrace sustainable business models, we aim to drive positive change and create a greener and fairer future for generations to come.
Addressing energy poverty is a crucial step towards a just transition and a greener, fairer future. The “Energising Equity” event provides a platform for collaborative efforts, knowledge exchange, and innovative solutions. By confronting the complex challenges of energy poverty in the context of the green transition and the cost-of-living crisis, we can pave the way for a more inclusive, sustainable, and equitable society.
Through initiatives like the Greener Future project, led by Volonteurope, we can support the aspirations of young people while championing a just transition that leaves no one behind. By working together, amplifying voices, and implementing transformative policies, we can overcome energy poverty and build a better future for all. Let us unite our efforts and embark on this crucial journey towards a greener and fairer world.
Project Officer at Volonteurope