Just transition only with social justice

The following article is an excerpt from Ecosprinter’s 2021 printed edition on a just transition. We decided to bring you the articles from this edition in a digital form as well.

The policies that we implement in the coming years will irreversibly determine the survival of thousands of species, including humans, and the planet as we know it. Despite all the warnings and speeches, the economic paradigm and environmental issues are still predominant in public debates.

In the case of Portugal, we have a long way to achieve carbon neutrality. Ambitious policies and a major transformation are needed in all sectors, in the transport of people and goods, in agriculture, in animal production and in the residential sector.

We need to recover strategic sectors with massive public investment directed for example to public transport, increase energy efficiency, decentralize and democratize energy production, abandon the linear economic model and reformulate production and distribution chains with shorter circuits, preferably national and regional and recovering food sovereignty. 

In more detail, this means that investment in public transport, in order to have an effective, accessible and attractive transport network, is crucial for people to abandon individual transport and to ensure environmental balance, social justice and developed cities. On the other hand, the circular economy contrasts with the traditional model, the linear economic model based on the “produce-use-throw-away” principle. This model requires vast amounts of materials at low price,easy access and lots of energy. These are fundamental steps for ecologists to achieve a greener society. Therefore, the circular economy is a priority. 

By the end of 2021 the Sines and Pego coal power plants will be shut down – these are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) in Portugal. Ecolojovem – Os Verdes considers this a very good and important measure from an environmental point of view. However, we are ecologists concerned both about climate and  social  issues.

Measures for the energy transition cannot be a new contributing factor in increasing unemployment and external dependence. One of the worst mistakes is to present the energy transition as a threat to employment and workers’ rights.

For example, Sines and Pego coal plants employ about 650 workers and, when they close, these jobs should be converted into green jobs. In the specific case of Pego, the whole region depends heavily on the plant and, in the future, we need a sustainable alternative, to make the whole region greener and to develop projects that make the region grow in a balanced way.

It is necessary to minimize the economic and social impacts in the affected regions, safeguard the jobs, with the requalification of the workers. It is also necessary to guarantee that there is no compensation for the operators that explore the coal plants.
It is an opportunity to implement alternative and green solutions, transition to clean and renewable sources, create jobs and value workers.

There is no environmental justice without social justice and we defend an ecologically balanced, transparent response involving the population, municipalities and workers.

The distribution of financial resources at European level should reflect the capacity of Member States for this transition, taking into account the socio-economic and environmental impacts on the communities most affected by the measures adopted to reduce carbon dependence. Moreover, there should be no conditionalities that restrict their use. Nothing will change  with publicity only, and the public resources for the climate response are very low.

This is, we have seen many announcements and compromises, but we need concrete and urgent action, and the measures are taking a long time. The weather and the planet cannot wait any longer. The environment is not a trend that looks good in speeches, so we say we need actions and changes now!

On the other hand, it does not make any sense that the government wants to prospect and explore fossil resources in Portugal. The exploitation of fossil resources in the country has environmental damage, which is not a good deal for the planet nor for the people.

For example, in this regard the Portuguese Government had projects for oil and gas research and exploration in Batalha, Pombal, Alentejo and Algarve. However, Portugal closed the door to these projects. This was achieved thanks to the struggle of the people, associations and The Greens. In consequence,  Australis, the last company that was looking for hydrocarbons in the country, renounced concession contracts. It is important that this decision is maintained and that there are no setbacks.

An ecological, fair and coherent energy transition helps answering the climate and social crisis, with solutions for equality.

This global crisis caused by Covid-19 has shown that we need to be more resilient, better prepared and stronger for the various crises that may occur.

Portugal needs to do much more than what it is doing. The principle of social justice and environmental justice must be at the center of the agenda for post-pandemic recovery, ensuring that nobody is left behind, while at the same time taking into consideration solidarity with other parts of the world and the future generations.

“Green Europe” is one of Portugal’s presidency priorities in the EU council and Ecolojovem – The Greens argue that Portugal and the European Union must respond to these challenges for a truly greener Europe and not just a little greener. These are our proposals and appeal.

The Portuguese Young Greens “Ecolojovem – Os
Verdes” were founded in 1989. Ecolojovem refuses
the sadness of passivity, of conformism, the
mediocrity of submission. They strive for quality,
justice, and peace and believe in transformation,
the work of young people’s capacity for participation and intervention. They are a full member
organization of FYEG.