The Good Council – The official podcast of the World Future Council

The new podcast series of the World Future Council, The Good Council, launches today for the first season of intergenerational dialogues involving the World Future Council’s youth forum, Youth:Present.

An inspiring Future Policy Award Ceremony 2021 celebrated the world’s most impactful policies on protection from hazardous chemicals

What an exciting event we held on 6th July: The World Future Council is truly proud about the Future Policy Award Ceremony 2021, at which our “Oscar for best policies” distinguished five truly exemplary policies protecting people and the environment from hazardous chemicals!

Among the winners were policies from Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Sweden that effectively minimise the adverse effects of exposure to chemicals on human health and the environment. Two Gold winners and three Special Awards winners were selected from 55 nominated policies from 36 countries.

Unlike the previous years, the winning policies of the Future Policy Award 2021 were celebrated with a virtual ceremony, held in Hamburg, Germany, on July 6, 2021, and had over a thousand viewers, including the awardees from across the globe. Moderated by Jennifer Sarah Boone, the event was opened by Alexandra Wandel, the Executive Director of World Future Council, who provided insights about the Future Policy Award (3:40) and with speeches by Prof. Dr Dirk Messner, President of the German Environment Agency (UBA), and Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of the Economy Division of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). (7:00) “Chemicals and chemical waste are a big topic, and we cannot treat them as a side aspect if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. We need to have more political attention for the topic of chemicals and chemical waste; the Future Policy Award makes an exciting contribution to generating this kind of attention,” said Prof. Dr Messner, President of the German Environment Agency (UBA).

The presentations of the awardees were opened with a beautiful song, “We are one,” from MaximNoise and Nicole Milik, who are both passionate musicians and support the good cause of the 2021 Future Policy Award (13:00).

Special Award for Colombia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka

Colombia’s Resolution 371 Establishing the elements to be considered in the Management Plans for the Return of Pharmaceutical Products and Expired Medicines (2009) received the first Special Award in the “Environmentally Persistent Pharmaceutical Pollutants” category. The Resolution’s remarkable feature is that it places the responsibilities and costs of implementation on the manufacturers and importers of pharmaceuticals and medications, in line with the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Providing the congratulatory speech, Mr Nikhil Seth, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNITAR, acknowledged Resolution 371 as the true pioneer in the region and applauded Colombia and all stakeholders for the effective implementation of the policy. The Award was delightfully accepted by H.E. Carlos Eduardo Correa, Colombia’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development. (19:50)

Speech by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health, Nutrition, and Indigenous Medicine, H.E. Pavitra Devi Wanniarachchi

The Philippines’ Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds (CCO, 2013-24) won the second Special Award in the Category “Lead in Paint.” The Philippines is the first Southeast Asian country to successfully implement legislation towards lead-safe paint. Acknowledging the importance of risk reduction of lead, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Mr Masamichi Kono, congratulated the Philippines and all stakeholders that contributed to the successful implementation of the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds (28:00). The Award was received by the Secretary of the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), H.E. Ret. General Roy Cimatu. (3:00)

The final Special Award went to Sri Lanka’s Pesticides Act and National Policy for Suicide Prevention under the Category “Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).” Thanks to the policies Sri Lanka has been successful in banning a total of 36 HHPs, which has saved about 93,000 lives over 20 years at a direct government cost of less than USD 50 per life. The Award was received by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Health, Nutrition, and Indigenous Medicine, H.E. Pavitra Devi Wanniarachchi and Minister of Agriculture, H.E. Mahindananda Aluthgamage. (38:40) In her congratulatory speech Prof. Dr Vandana Shiva, who is an internationally well renowned environmental and social activist from India and a Founding Councillor of the World Future Council, highlighted that thanks to these policies suicide rate has been reduced by an impressive 70 per cent.

Gold for Kyrgyzstan and Sweden!

Kyrgyzstan’s Resolution No. 43 won the Gold Award for being one of the few countries in the world to make the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) legally binding.  Kyrgyzstan’s Resolution No. 43 won the Award in the Fourth Category, “Chemicals Across the Lifecycle.” and was commended by Prof. Dr Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, who is an expert jurist, Senior Director of the Center for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) and a Founding Councillor of the World Future Council. Delivering a speech on behalf of Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Minister of Economy and Finance, the First Deputy Minister of Economy and Finance H.E. Daniiar Imanaliev expressed gratitude to the World Future Council for recognizing Resolution No. 43 in the prestigious Future Policy Award 2021. He also expressed their readiness to share their experience with others to create a toxic-free world.

Unlike all the other 2021 Awards that went to national policies, the second Gold Award was won by the Swedish Region Stockholm for its Phase-Out List for chemicals hazardous to the environment and human health in the same category, “Chemicals Across the Lifecycle.” The policy is credited for phasing out a significant proportion of hazardous chemicals since 2012, especially in the health sector. Presenting the laudatory speech for the awardee, Co-founder and Honorary Councillor of the World Future Council, Prof. Dr Michael Otto commended the Region Stockholm for taken bold action against the use of harmful chemicals and for safeguarding children’s health. (1:00:02) On behalf of Region Stockholm, the Award was received by the Regional Chair for Environment and Transport, Mr. Tomas Eriksson, and Regional Chief Executive, Mrs. Carina Lundberg Uudelepp. (1:03:50)

The Way Forward for the Future Policy Award

Following the award presentations, the Ceremony was also graced with speeches from Dr Auma Obama, Founder and Director of the Sauti Kuu Foundation, and Councillor of the World Future Council, Ms Kehkashan Basu, Founder and President of the Green Hope Foundation and currently the youngest Councillor of the World Future Council, and Mr Jakob von Uexkull, Founder for both the World Future Council and Alternative Noble Prize, who congratulated the awardees for their commitment towards saving millions of lives and protecting critical environmental resources.

Concluding remarks by Alexandra Wandel at Future Policy Award Ceremony
Concluding remarks by Alexandra Wandel, Executive Director of the World Future Council © Markus Mielek Future Policy Award

In her concluding remarks, the Executive Director of World Future Council, Alexandra Wandel, reiterated a commitment to continue spreading knowledge about these impactful policies. Asked about what theme will be considered for the next award, she revealed that “the topic is decided by our Council that will be having its annual general meeting in October. During that meeting, they will certainly decide on a highly relevant topic. Once the topic is selected, we will, of course, inform our friends and supporters.” Finally, she thanked all partners, supporters, nominators, experts, and consultants who evaluated the policies and other stakeholders who contributed to the Future Policy Award 2021. The Award Ceremony, which included beautiful artistic contributions such as a stand-up speech by comedian and science journalist Dr Eckart von Hirschhausen, a lead-free painting by NY-based illustrator George Bates and a slam poetry by Berlin-based author Naniso Twsai, ended with a beautiful song cover from the Young ClassX, “Imagine”.

This article was written by Benjamin Dosu Jnr, Ph.D., Volunteer of the World Future Council and Research Assistant, University of Lethbridge.

Energy Democracy – Power to the People!

By now the environmental advantages of a shift towards renewable energy have been widely recognised. A transition to renewable sources of energy is more sustainable, mitigates the impacts of climate change and can be a driving force for economic development. However, this transition does not only mean a change in the resources of energy. More significantly, it provides the opportunity for structural change and the redistribution of (economic) power. It enables participation and ownership for less privileged parts of the population. The concept behind this grander restructuring is called Energy Democracy.

What does Energy Democracy mean?

According to the Climate Justice Alliance‘ definition: „Energy Democracy represents a shift from the corporate, centralized fossil fuel economy to one that is governed by communities, is designed on the principle of no harm to the environment, supports local economies, and contributes to the health and well-being for all peoples.“ Thus it connects the transition to renewable energy with a process of democratisation, focusing on social benefits and their fair distribution and not on economic advantages for a few[i].

Energy democracy includes several basic principles, that can be translated into actions:

  • Transition to renewable, sustainable, and local sources of energy replacing fossil fuels. The foundation for the development of energy democracy is the transition from unsustainable, often centralised sources of energy to renewable energy which are modular and can be deployed even in the most remote regions.
  • Universal access to affordable and clean energy, so that everyone has the opportunity to use renewable energy as they wish. This can lead to local economic value creation, because small and medium sized enterprises can form or grow, due to their reliable access to energy. Further, the deployment of decentralised RE systems often leads to a reduction of the energy bill, as costly kerosene for lamps does not need to be acquired anymore.
  • Ownership of the energy transition and the decision-making processes connected to it. The people using the energy should be an active part of the decision-making process on how to foster and distribute it. They should decide on the transition to renewables and how to go through with it, ultimately also benefiting from financial returns.
  • A just transition that includes the restructuring of the energy system into one that benefits the people. Just transition means particularly the redistribution of power and wealth within the energy system.

The multi-faceted concept of energy democracy aspires to transform societies by democratizing the way in which power is produced and consumed. The movement, therefore, combines the social struggle for a more democratic and inclusive society – in which everyone can afford energy, has access to decent work and a say in how communities are governed – with the necessary transition to renewable energies that contribute to a safer environment for people and life around the globe. Therefore, it addresses both the issue of fossil fuels and their detrimental impact on our environment. As well as the fact that the current energy system is mostly controlled by corporations and serves economic interests of a few, often disregarding the needs and safety of people [ii][iii][iv].

Energy democracy is closely connected to the idea of community energy. The essence of both concepts is the participation and ownership of the local population in the energy system. Ideally, they decide what kind of energy they want to produce, in what way and how to distribute it. This also enables them to make decisions over spending of financial returns which could, for instance, be used to install further energy projects or maintain streets. The production and distribution of energy become democratic and fair with the interests of the local population at heart, hence contributing to local value creation. Consequently, communities are able to develop a sense of ownership in the energy transition[v]. The modularity of most renewable energy sources further supports this development, by being able to be installed even in the most remote regions, and often the transition to renewable energies goes hand in a hand with the democratisation of the energy system.

(Read about the example of solar home systems here: What are Solar Home Systems? (worldfuturecouncil.org))


Challenges for energy democracy around the globe and how to overcome them

Often communities are met with little support from governing authorities and face many risks when starting the process towards renewable energy and energy democracy[i]. Thus, challenges for energy democracy and active participation of community actors remain manifold: The difficulty of allocating financial means; navigating within a policy framework that is designed for large-scale, centralized projects; lack of understanding around the advantages of energy democracy and community energy.[ii]

However, there are many different communities advocating for a shift to renewable energy and greater participation in the energy transition.

There exist countless examples, showing us that energy democracy and a Just Transition to renewable energy is possible; for instance in the communities of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where social organisations have implemented concepts of energy community and whole neighbourhoods are now supplied with energy from solar panels installed on the roofs of their houses.; or in the rural areas of Bangladesh where villages that were previously not connected to the national electricity grid are now producing their own energy through solar home systems.

Energy democracy presents itself as a bottom-up approach with strong local actors and solutions that arise from within the community. In order to strengthen energy democracy and overcome the challenges for people to get engaged in the energy system, we need strong policy frameworks supporting people’s participation and rapid deployment of renewables. This can be achieved through various political and technological support measures, for instance, local ownership quotas, virtual net energy metering, Feed-In-Tariffs (FiTs) or One-Stop-Shops. To further allocate financial resources innovative financing mechanisms are necessary though. Those could be crowdfunding, concessional loans or grants which can help to reduce (perceived) risks with financing RE projects. Both should be coming from public sources of financing as well as from private sources.

Moreover, to create greater motivation for the establishment of energy democracy and community energy, better awareness for the benefits of community owned energy systems needs to be achieved.  For example, achieving universal energy access, the creation of green jobs, gender equity, access to education and local economic development. Incentives for storage need to be created. Overall, a stronger focus on distributed energy systems, rather than centralised systems is essential and should be apparent through measures such as FiTs, premiums, as well as ambitious targets for renewable energy.

Realising the opportunity of a transition to renewable energy as a chance for structural change in the energy system and a just transition, is essential. The World Future Council (WFC) is currently working with legislators and parliamentarians, particularly from countries of the Global South, to support this process. Specifically, to encourage the development of policy frameworks that provide better support for communities in their transition and help them tackle the challenges that they are facing.

Read Here about the projects of the WFC:

Global Renewables Congress – Legislators for Renewable Energy

Climate and Energy – World Future Council 

You might also like:

What is just transition? And what does it mean for the energy sector? (worldfuturecouncil.org)

What are Solar Home Systems? (worldfuturecouncil.org)

https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/community-energy-rio-de-janeiro/
https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/lessons-learned-100-re/
https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/climate-change-poverty-energy-renewable-energy-solution-africa/
https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/women-forefront-energy-revolution/
https://www.worldfuturecouncil.org/100re-sdg/

Sources:

i Energy Democracy – Climate Justice Alliance
ii Climate justice and energy – Friends of the Earth International (foei.org)

iii What is energy democracy? – The Earthbound Report
iv PRINCIPLES OF ENERGY DEMOCRACY | ENERGY DEMOCRACY (energy-democracy.net)
v Definition, benefits and potential of community energy | Community Energy England

vi IRENA Coalition for Action, 2020
vii IRENA Coalition for Action, 2020

Event information: Berlin Forum on Chemicals and Sustainability

Invitation: Future Policy Award Ceremony 2021

Future Policy Award 2021: Shortlisted candidates announced

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