Austin, Texas, had a goal of achieving 65 percent renewable power supply by including local solar. But city officials realized that, while solar installations had increased, most had been by middle- and high-income single-family homeowners. Renters and lower-income residents faced various barriers to accessing solar, yet including these groups was recognized as crucial to facilitating community-wide growth and commitment. The Community Solar program reduced physical barriers to on-site solar and the city council allocated more resources to increase solar energy adoption and access for underserved markets.
This project won the U. This grew out of the Portland Plan , the citywide equity framework , and the Office of Equity and Human Rights we established during my tenure as mayor of the city to ensure that all programs and agencies included these considerations in their work. In Portland, we also created a local nonprofit, Enhabit , to offer homeowners loans for residential energy efficiency upgrades, paid off with a charge on their utility bills.
In a city with too few non-male and non-white tradespeople, we aimed to have the work done largely by women and minorities working with local equity partners, like the Oregon Minority Contractors Association and Oregon Tradeswomen , to make sure what we intended made sense on the ground. And, a national equity partner, Green for All , made sure we used best practices learned in other cities. The movement for making equity and empowerment a central aspect of climate-action plans is growing and has taken hold in some cities as these examples show.
Yet a startling number of city climate action plans still fail to include equity in any meaningful way. Cities , Portland State University researcher Greg Schrock and his colleagues decided to quantify this problem, using different measurements to analyze climate and sustainability action plans from cities around the country. We need to move climate action equity from an afterthought to the way cities go about their work. You may have already requested this item.
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Equity across borders: A whole systems approach to micro-generation
We believe that the increasing attention on double materiality of democracy Pichler et al. Here we see a fruitful tension, since raising energy democracy concerns in the struggle against RDF in Can Sant Joan could potentially add a new emphasis on reclaiming. But what does reclaiming mean in this context? And second, being able to reclaim and collectively decide on the public control of those activities. There are many implications, though, in decentralizing waste and energy systems and bringing power back to the public in a subaltern community.
A Commitment to Equity & Justice in Climate Resilience – Urban Energy Justice Lab
Just consider that cement produced in Can Sant Joan is sold internationally, while urban waste incinerated in the kiln is brought from 19 municipalities, and sewage sludge that is integrated in the RDF mix comes from a plant that gives service to , people 5. This clearly shows the role of Can Sant Joan as a sacrifice zone suffering structural environmental discrimination, in a multi-layered and multi-scalar political economic configuration.
Thus, one can say that probably the hardest step for subaltern communities is to reclaim ownership of the very structures that give rise to their grievances. Public control of resources cannot be reclaimed until structural discrimination processes are resisted and the multi-layered political economic dynamics are restructured. However, by even rhetorically raising the issue of reclaiming , the movement against RDF in Can Sant Joan could complement their ongoing struggle with an eye on autonomy.
Climate Equity: From Crisis to Opportunity Building Power Through Partnership
As Stirling underlines, socio-economic, political and cultural power is necessary for societal transformation in the context of energy debates. Nonetheless, power itself also needs to be transformed in due process. This makes energy democracy, regardless of its ambiguity and uncertainty, not only an analytical framework to assess injustices, but also a pivotal normative commitment to reclaim autonomy for the communities ibid.
Formed in , the Catalan Energy Sovereignty Network Xse in short is comprised of more than 30 organizations which seek to transform the Catalan energy landscape following social and environmental justice criteria. Despite using the term energy sovereignty , energy democracy also strongly resonates with Xse. This framing brings to mind Szulecki's definition of energy democracy, in which the prosumer Ritzer, has a central role.
According to Xse, five specific criteria are also developed as dimensions that need to be integrated when developing the new energy system, in order to reach the ultimate goals of equity, respect for human rights, and harmony with the environment. They are: democracy, social control of the means of production, sustainability, energy degrowth, and decentralization and roots in the community. Nonetheless, as Hess and Burke argue, the absence of a narrow framing for energy democracy might be seen as an advantage here, rather than a weakness.
It enhances the potential for advocates of energy democracy to build solidarities between organizations with diverse goals and has the potential to create fruitful tensions between their different transition narratives as exemplified in the diverse membership patterns of Xse 6. At this point, we argue for mutual benefits and new political possibilities in framing anti-RDF movements within the Xse.
Xse's manifesto states its clear intention to eliminate the fossil fuel and nuclear power based energy system in Catalonia with strong aspirations for self-rule. Considering that RDF is, thus far, not explicitly addressed by Xse, framing RDF use as a matter of concern for energy democracy in the highly polluting process of cement production is not only being sidelined by local activists in Can Sant Joan—and the different networks that they belong to—but also, by Catalan energy democracy advocates.
Yet, we still see a fertile ground here. Although for some RDF is arguably in line with global sustainability concerns mainly because of the fact that it reuses waste to produce energy and it indirectly avoids a certain amount of GHG emissions , it clashes with societal concerns in a way that blocks alternative narratives from emerging.
Energy justice in a changing climate : social equity and low-carbon energy
First of all, RDF bypasses social control and collective ownership by the affected communities. The community of Can Sant Joan do not have any decision-making power over the production or consumption of energy at the cement plant nor can claim any right to energy ownership through the use of waste therein. Consequently, RDF use through waste incineration translates exclusively to profit for the owners of the cement plant, at the cost of health and quality of life of the community. Secondly, RDF creates additional benefits at the expense of community. Energy from waste in the Asland cement plant is produced and controlled by the multinational corporation LafargeHolcim, whose business interest is to promote further consumption of waste and cement in order to keep benefiting from the waste disposal business, while simultaneously obtaining windfall profits in the European carbon markets.
Avoiding the societal debate on energy downscaling simply obscures the fact that more energy from RDF implies the continuous demand for more waste production. Finally, RDF is a highly-centralized energy source which assumes a top-down governance of waste, rooted in a reductive framing of sustainability.
The solidarities forged between Xse and PAMiR will not only open new strategic paths of collaboration, reach a wider audience and gain visibility, but also bring onboard the burning questions on self-rule of energy from the local to regional. While being a bold target, this law was eventually overturned by the Spanish constitutional court in December , with important implications for the survival of nuclear plants in the autonomous region BOE, In a context of high political confrontation, such decisions also have implications for the energy democracy drive of Xse in forming a counter-hegemonic narrative.
We argue that anti-RDF movement's convergence with Xse could similarly empower community claims for democratic decision-making power over the energy and waste infrastructures that are deeply affecting their lives. Finally, the PAMiR could help the Xse to advance energy democracy at multiple scales, which according to Szulecki , should be one of the main goals of the movement.
The strong networks that the local anti-RDF movement has been able to knit at Spanish and international level could be a vehicle for raising energy democracy concerns within the global anti-RDF movement. Through the Can Sant Joan case study, we have shown how movements against RDF are deeply rooted in the EJ tradition of struggles against waste incineration.
As such, they often sideline energy issues associated with these conflicts. In their quest for an energy transition toward renewable energies, energy justice and energy democracy have usually overlooked the role of waste-to-energy infrastructures. Nevertheless, we argue that the movements against RDF use could be energized through converging with politically like-minded movements targeted at energy democracy. The multi-layered and multi-scalar nature of governance challenges around energy, waste, and cement production makes energy democracy a good framing for the movement against RDF in Can Sant Joan.
We argue that a strategic convergence could potentially strengthen the local movement in Can Sant Joan to scale up its demands for justice, fairness and sustainability but also ownership while expanding the horizons of energy democracy for Xse. Establishing an alliance between PAMiR and Xse would equally boost fruitful internal tensions among EJ and energy democracy communities toward a more inclusive and democratic future.
In so doing, they go beyond a narrow, localized understanding of struggles for energy democracy. This said, we believe there is further need to scrutinize waste-to-energy infrastructures in the light of energy democracy. A starting point for doing so is by not taking RDFs as energy sources at their face value. The raw data supporting the conclusions of this manuscript will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation, to any qualified researcher.
SR and ET conceived the idea. SR conducted the fieldwork and wrote the manuscript. ET edited and improved it substantially. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. We would like to thank the editor and two reviewers for their insightful comments. We also would like to thank Marco Armiero for his guidance and mentorship of SR during the fieldwork that led to this article and to Alex Franklin from the Center for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University for her professional English proofreading.
About GAIA. It was later wholly acquired by Lafarge in Despite having previously sent the form and informed these informants that they need to sign if they wanted the information they provided to be included in the research study, these informants suggested they needed clearance from the company's legal department and never sent the signed form back.
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