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The Global Justice Program (GJP) at the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley is dedicated to bridging and advancing climate justice movements worldwide. In our research and this white paper, we focus on how African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations are combating the drivers of the climate crisis, managing the impacts of the climate crisis, and forging strategies to build climate resilience. We do so to help ensure that efforts to support climate justice in Africa are accountable to the objectives, strategies, and activities of African organizations and African peoples themselves, and to build robust and impactful relationships with African organizations.
The need for this work is clear: according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, nine of the 10 countries that are most vulnerable to the climate crisis and least ready to improve resilience are in Africa.1 At the same time, African countries struggle with deforestation caused by fossil fuel extraction, and the public health risks posed by fossil fuel extraction and use—issues compounded by the fact that many African countries still strive to secure energy access for greater segments of their populations, in part through the expansion of such fossil fuel industries.
Bridging and advancing climate justice movements worldwide thus requires taking seriously these challenges and how African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations have responded to them. To ensure that efforts to support climate justice in Africa are accountable to the objectives, strategies, and activities of African organizations and African peoples themselves, and to build robust and impactful relationships with African organizations, the GJP carried out two complementary methods of data collection:
- online content analysis of materials by African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations;
- a comprehensive survey of African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations.
In our online content analysis, we focus on whether African organizations explicitly use the Just Transition (JT) framework—an umbrella framework that encompasses multiple principles, processes, and practices (e.g., sustainable development, food sovereignty, agrarian reform) that build economic and political power to shift from extractive economies to regenerative ones.2 We first focus on the explicit use of the JT framework in Africa because it is a framework that has been increasingly adopted in the Global North, and because Global North collaborations with African countries and organizations are increasingly taking shape under this banner. We ask: Where in Africa is the JT framework used, by which organizations, and in what sectors?
In our comprehensive survey of African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations, we thus focus on how such organizations employ multiple principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from extractive economies to regenerative economies—whether under the banner of the Just Transition framework or other frameworks and principles that foster just transitions. We ask: What are such organizations’ populations and issues of interest? What frameworks do they use? What are their needs and what support do they request? What is their assessment of the activities of non-African organizations? And what are their demands upon non-African organizations and the international community?
Across our online content analysis and survey, we aim to shed light on the multiple principles, processes, and practices of African climate, agri-food, and environmental organizations that collectively foster African just transitions, and to help ensure that Global North collaborations with African countries and organizations are accountable to such work. The remainder of this paper outlines our research methodology, our findings, the significance of these findings, and a call to action for future research and advocacy.
As the JT framework proliferates in the Global North, the opportunities to foster just transitions in Africa and worldwide are clear. For example, the JT framework has been adopted by major international organizations and institutions based in the Global North, including United Nations human rights and development agencies like the International Labour Organization and the UN Development Programme, which has begun to incorporate JT principles into Nationally Determined Contributions revision processes and implementation.3 Similarly, the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund in 2022 at the UN Climate Conference (COP27) has been hailed by the UN as a key means of fostering “just transitions to renewable energy during this critical decade of action.”4
As it proliferates among major international organizations and institutions based in the Global North, however, there is the risk that the JT framework, and the multiple principles, processes, and practices that foster just transitions, will be stripped of their transformative power. For example, the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF)—which have been directly responsible for perpetuating global dynamics of colonialism and neoliberalism that have rendered Africa especially vulnerable to the climate crisis—now explicitly invoke the JT framework in ways that emphasize carbon pricing and private investment in clean technologies,5 and defang multifaceted demands for reparations from Global North countries, organizations, and institutions for their role in the crisis, and in service of just transitions globally.6
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- 1 “Country Rankings.” University of Notre Dame: Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2020. https://gain.nd.edu/our-work/country-index/rankings/.
- 2 Though the Just Transition framework is not inherently about the climate crisis, it is often invoked in the context of energy transitions away from fossil fuels and to alternative energy sources. Wilgosh, Becca, Alevgul H. Sorman, and Iñaki Barcena. “When Two Movements Collide: Learning from Labour and Environmental Struggles for Future Just Transitions.” Futures (2022). 3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328722000039.
- 3 “Climate Promise Progress Report.” New York: United Nations Development Programme, April 2022. https://climatepromise.undp.org/research-and-reports/climate-promise-progress-report-april-2022.
- 4 United Nations Climate Change News. “COP27 Reaches Breakthrough Agreement on New ‘Loss and Damage’ Fund for Vulnerable Countries,” November 20, 2022. https://unfccc.int/news/cop27-reaches-breakthrough-agreement-on-new-loss-and-damage-fund-for-vulnerable-countries.
- 5 Georgieva, Kristalina. “Remarks by IMF Managing Director on Global Policies and Climate Change.” Presented at the International Conference on Climate, Venice, July 11, 2021. https://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2021/07/11/sp071121-md-on-global-policies-and-climate-change.
- 6 Franczak, Michael and Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò. “Here’s How to Repay Developing Nations for Colonialism – and Fight the Climate Crisis.” The Guardian, January 14, 2022, sec. Opinion. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jan/14/heres-how-to-repay-developing-nations-for-colonialism-and-fight-the-climate-crisis.