Five young people standing next to solar panel
Wayuu youth during the Scaling Up Renewable Energy (SURE) program. | Credit: SENA for USAID/SURE

COP28 Calls for a Just Energy Transition: Here’s What USAID’s Doing to Meet the Challenge

By Kasandra Richardson

COP28 is putting the focus on advancing a just energy transition. From partnering with Indigenous Peoples and supporting locally led economic opportunities to protecting and enhancing workers’ rights in the energy sector, USAID is committed to supporting a just and inclusive transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. 

Decreasing emissions from the energy sector is an urgent climate priority. Three-quarters of global carbon emissions come from the generation of electricity and direct consumption of fossil fuels. As such, transitioning to clean energy systems is an impactful climate mitigation strategy. This transition requires large investments in developing countries to support the massive installation of renewable energy sources necessary to meet growing energy demands. Fortunately, accelerating a just energy transition will bring about many ecological, economic, health, and social benefits, including preventing up to 6 million premature deaths each year from exposure to toxic air pollution.

Because addressing the climate crisis necessitates partnerships across sectors, the USAID Climate Strategy emphasizes climate actions that provide broader development benefits like food and water security, health, peace, and education. Read on to learn about how USAID is working to promote equitable and just outcomes while promoting a cleaner energy sector.

Elevating Indigenous Peoples in Energy through Community Engagement, Inclusive Governance, and Professional Pathways

Can “Big” Clean Power Benefit Indigenous Communities?

Indigenous communities often hold lands in prime wind, solar, and hydropower locations. Clean energy project proposals have too often led to conflict with local and Indigenous communities. Government ministries and private project developers sometimes need more systems to work with local communities in a manner that is considered equitable and respectful. Yet, recent experience in the region offers several models and projects that point the way to shared benefits between project developers and local Indigenous communities. 

USAID can foster greater equity in renewable energy development by partnering with Indigenous communities, strengthening inclusive governance, prioritizing capacity building in addition to financeflows, and supporting Indigenous Peoples to lead on which practices are most important based on their local context and economy. Read more.

Building Community Buy-in for Renewable Energy

Northeastern Colombia’s La Guajira region is rich in cultural diversity, with a large population of Wayuu Indigenous Peoples who have their own language, customs, and governance structure. The region also has one of the highest sustained wind speeds in the world, some of the highest poverty rates in Colombia, and a lack of jobs and educational opportunities. 

Renewable energy can help with these challenges by increasing private investment, economic growth, jobs, and access to clean, reliable, and affordable electricity. With help from the Scaling Up Renewable Energy program, USAID supports the Government of Colombia’s efforts to ensure that traditionally marginalized groups, particularly the Indigenous Wayuu community, benefit from renewable energy projects and are meaningfully engaged as change agents. Read more. 

A New Generation of Wayuu Leaders Emerge in Colombia’s Clean Energy Transition

To ensure a just energy transition for the Indigenous Wayuu people, USAID partnered with Colombia’s National Training Service to provide young people in Wayuu communities with the skills needed to enter the labor market and become entrepreneurs in the region’s emerging renewable energy economy. Learn more.

Renewable Energy Auctions as a Just Energy Transition Catalyst

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U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson (left) visited the North Luzon Wind Farm in Pagudpud during her visit to Ilocos Norte earlier this year.
How USAID is Helping the Philippines Decrease Emissions and Increase Energy Security

USAID’s Energy Secure Philippines program supported the Philippines in the country’s first renewable energy auction in which private sector companies bid against each other for contracts to generate energy. The first auction in 2022 facilitated $2.35 billion of investment and awarded 1,866 MW of renewable energy into the country’s energy mix and attracted 24 bidders based in the country. The auction was so successful that 109 bidders came out for the second auction in 2023- and awarded an impressive 3.6 GW of new solar and wind projects through $4.3 billion of investment. 

Combined, both rounds of auctions will avoid 69.7 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2e) over 15 years, and the power generated will make up 20 percent of the total power system in the country. This transparent and competitive process allows countries to obtain clean energy at a better price than fossil fuel-based energy. 

The selection of projects for the auctions is managed with input from local communities who will in-turn benefit from these investments. This is essential as countries realize the importance of having energy security and reducing reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports in the face of difficult geopolitical situations, like the war in Ukraine. Moving away from imported energy sources also paves the way to create green jobs in the communities that will support clean energy infrastructure. As an added benefit, the communities that host generation facilities receive a share of revenues generated from the sale of electricity, ensuring the transition to clean energy delivers equitable benefits. Read more.

Addressing the Social Impact of Renewable Energy Auctions

Engaging in meaningful consultation and raising awareness of future energy projects with local communities is critical to ensuring a just and inclusive transition to clean energy. Policymakers are accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy with renewable energy auctions, which can also reap social and economic benefits. However, if authorities and auction bidders fail to engage local communities or understand the social impact of renewable energy projects, it can lead to harmful outcomes for the communities and financial losses for the developers. Learn more about the link between auctions and the social impacts of renewable energy projects in this recorded webinar and this impact report.

Sectors
Energy
Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Mitigation
Topics
Climate/Environmental Justice, Energy, Clean or Renewable Energy, Gender and Social Inclusion, Infrastructure, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, Locally-Led Development, Energy Efficiency, Private Sector Engagement, Climate Change Courses

Kasandra Richardson

Kasandra Richardson is a Communications Specialist on USAID’s Advancing Capacity for the Environment (ACE) project. In this role, she supports communications for USAID’s work on energy, infrastructure, and urban environmental issues. Kasandra has a Bachelor’s in Environmental Management and a Master’s in Environmental Policy and Natural Resource Management from Indiana University.

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