New Briefing Paper: Poverty, Inequality and Climate Change – Challenges on the road to sustainable energy security, in Europe and beyond

QCEA’s conception of Sustainable Energy Security involves social, economic and ecological sustainability. It also recognizes that promoting the EU’s short term energy security, at any cost, will undermine its long time security in all senses:

  • by further marginalizing the global poor – who will suffer first and foremost from climate change – despite doing least to cause it, and being deprived of the benefits that 200 years of industrialization and exploitation of others’ resources (often through colonialism) brought to today’s developed countries;
  • by fueling conflict, human rights abuses and undermining democracy and transparency in third countries, related to the extractive industries and energy trade, in third countries.

The Sustainable Energy Security programme seeks to re-define energy security for the 21st century so that it incorporates human security, fair energy distribution and genuine sustainability, and to galvanise action on sustainable energy use at all levels across Europe. Energy choices are at the very heart of the environmental, economic and quality-of-life challenges we face. Energy choices impact everything from governance and human rights to inequality and security, and poverty, peace and justice.

Earlier this year, QCEA produced a discussion paper entitled “Sustainable Growth or Growth vs. Sustainability”, which looked at the relationships between resource use, climate emissions and economic growth. This avenue of work reflects the fact that it is not possible to consider a sustainable energy future without examining the economic systems which have created and perpetuate the overconsumption of energy and resources in some parts of the world, whilst much of the world remains marginalised and suffers the negative environmental effects of this overconsumption.

As a follow up to our earlier discussion paper, and in recognition of the large amount of work being done by different Quaker organizations and groups – relating to climate change, conflict and migration, sustainable economics (including inequality, growth, resource use, etc.), sustainable lifestyles and sustainable security – QCEA has produced a new briefing paper. “Poverty, Inequality and Climate Change – Challenges on the road to sustainable energy security, in Europe and beyond”, aims to encourage European policy makers to make the links between these issues and understand how they interact. In doing so, it indicates the work being done by other Quaker organizations and initiatives, pointing policy-makers in the direction of these different, but connected, areas of work.

Logos of some of the Quaker organisations working on climate change and sustainability issues: Quaker Council for European Affairs, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Northern Friends Peace Board, EcoQuakers Ireland, Quakernomics blog, Quaker United Nations Office Geneva, Living Witness.

The purpose of this exposition of some of the work that Quakers are doing, individually and collectively, across Europe (and in the wider world) is to underline our message to policy makers, at all levels:

We do care. We are engaged. We are changing.

It is time for policy-making to reflect this.

As noted by Quaker Peace and Social Witness, “many Friends are called to speak out and let their lives speak, becoming public signposts to a different way of being and acting.” But, of course, it is not just Quakers; there are people from all walks of life, all faiths, all nations, who are working towards creating a fair and sustainable world, and recognising that this world will look very different from the world today. Policy discourse and policy choices need to reflect this much more.   The paper  concludes that if the EU’s commitment to policy coherence for development was genuine, it would require a radical overhaul of many policy areas, and even economic paradigms. This is because of:

  • the effects of climate change on poverty, including through migration and conflict; and,
  • the structural tendencies towards inequality and environmental degradation in the prevailing free-market economic paradigm.

Policies relating to climate change, energy, external action (including conflict prevention), trade, economic policy, and international development cannot be considered in isolation. As acknowledged by International Alert, ‘Neither development, [climate change mitigation and] adaptation or peacebuilding can be regarded as a bolt-on to either one of the other two. The problems are interlinked and the policy responses must be integrated. Development policy-making and strategic planning henceforth, at both international and national levels, need to integrate with peaceful climate [mitigation and] adaptation planning. Compartmentalisation between these areas is no longer viable’.

Download the new briefing paper here >>

About Rachel Tansey

Rachel was a QCEA Programme Assistant on Sustainable Energy Security between November 2010 and November 2011.

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