A Just Energy Transition Unlocking Youth Potential and Participation


11 November 2023

Compiled by Christabel Clotilda Mhiribidi (ZELA Youth Network)

Why a Just Energy Transition?

The world is battling with the climate crisis and research has shown that fossil fuels continue to cause more harm than good. The burning of fossil fuels remains the biggest energy for most of the major economic sectors ranging from health, agriculture, transport, industrial, education, tourism, that uses coal, oil and gas is being utilised to generate electricity, power up buildings, drive our mobile vehicles, operate our industries, cultivate our fields. Now more than ever we need to transition from the use of fossil fuels to cleaner and renewable energy sources, but in doing so we need to ensure that the transition is just and equitable. No one should be left behind, be it children, the elderly, the youths, women, persons with disabilities, all are important in the equation. A just energy transition entails that everyone benefits from the extraction of the critical minerals, benefiting from the energy generated, inclusion in policy formulation and working in the green sector.

The idea of a just energy transition comes at an opportune time where the world is grieving, and constantly living in fear of devastating floods, heatwaves, cyclones, food insecurity, water scarcity, climate induced migration which have become a norm under this climate plight. Just energy transition will ensure a low carbon transition that is fair, inclusive, creates decent work opportunities for all, embracing renewable energy sources like solar, wind turbines, geothermal, and hydroelectric generated power to power up all the sectors of the economy. Scientists have observed that transitioning to cleaner energy sources will go a long way in addressing the climate emergency and pave way to a cleaner and greener future.[1]

Young People’s Role in the Just Energy Transition Discourse

African Climate Summit explicitly reflected that the African continent and the global community is entirely dependent on young people to change the narrative. Theological reflections from ZAMI Youth Symposium by Reverend Dube (ZCC) clearly indicated that not only are young people charged with a duty to be masters of the land but also stewards of the environment and are mandated with a task for healing and redemption and not destruction, living in harmony with creation should be our everyday concern (Genesis 2:15). The clarion call is clear, young people should advocate for transparency, accountability, effective engagement in key decision-making processes on just energy transition, and a fair share of the resources from the benefits accrued from the transitioning process. Young people should take a foot towards advocating for targeted investments, climate responsive budgeting, climate financing models to support Africa’s cities, and green jobs for cleaner and fairer communities. In the context of fairer communities, young people can hold to account decision makers and demand transparency in the pathway to just energy transition, and even push for investments in structures that allow for value addition of the lithium, cobalt and other critical minerals needed to transition.

Youth Benefits from a Just Energy Transition

Young people in Africa are grappling with unemployment and it is imperative for them to drive the just energy transition agenda as they stand to be the beneficiaries. The just energy transition discourse is promising to change the narrative, according to the studies done by the International Renewable Energy Agency, investing in renewables presents the potential to create 122 million green jobs by 2050, a sharp rise from the 12.7 million people employed in the greenspace in 2022 and this will allow them to self-sustain.[2].

Youths are often reckoned for their flexible mindsets and creative energy; this has allowed them to innovate solutions within the climate arena. At the recent Africa Youth Climate Assembly 2023, Green Africa Youth Organization hosted The African Climate Innovation Challenge whereby they acknowledged efforts of young people in the green space by providing a platform for young people from across the continent to pitch their innovative climate solutions. Clean cooking solutions, wind turbines to generate power, solar projects, concrete projects and seed sovereignty and building the capacity of communities amongst other initiatives were presented. These initiatives clearly prove that young people into innovation stand a chance of being supported in their startups for building climate resilience.

Young People’s Ask in the Just Energy Transition Pathway

Youth appeals for clear, meaningful involvement and engagement on the decision-making table, so the decisions made are responsive to the needs of all and are most importantly youth sensitive. The Government must continuously support youth green projects through partnerships, technological support, and financial support. Young people agreed the only way they can serve as effective tools in the just energy transition discourse is if they are capacitated, they thus demand training programs necessitating reskilling and upscaling programs to build their capacity around just energy transition. They quoted the India solar network capacity building and echoed replication of such programs. An enabling policy environment remains key in achieving a sustainable energy portfolio for all as this will create a conducive environment for investors and businesses in general. The youth voices stressed how Zimbabwe is already in a debt distress, and that the just energy transition should not be funded through external borrowing but rather domestic resource mobilization, and in doing so transparency and accountability is of significance for the benefit of all.

In conclusion, the just energy transition equation will not be complete without the meaningful participation of youths. Youths have the capacity to change the status quo through collaboration and partnerships, enhancing climate-smart innovations, building a chain of knowledge on climate change, participating in policy and act reviews to inform policy formulation, holding decision makers and themselves to account in cases where transparency and accountability are lacking. From the African Climate Summit to the ZAMI Youth Symposium and other convenings with conversations being done on the road to the COP28 in UAE, it’s not just about the voice of young people it’s about embracing their significant impact, youths can be instrumental in shaping tangible solutions not only for the continent but the global community.

[1]  https://climatepromise.undp.org/news-and-stories/what-just-transition-and-why-it-important

[2] https://www.energyconnects.com/news/renewables/2021/july/a-net-zero-world-can-create-122-million-energy-jobs-by-2050/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.