The Inconvenience of (Not) Speaking Up

Read the latest editorial from our Executive Secretary, Rana Adib. This editorial was featured in the October edition of our quarterly newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter here.

As we move from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy economy, we see more and more players involved in energy decisions. Such a massive transition presents an opportunity to create a more inclusive society – a society which respects new voices and forces, and a society equipped to accelerate transitions.

Building and living in more inclusive societies is not always easy: it requires us to see our differences, to listen to others with whom we might not agree, to raise our voice when it is unclear how our audience will react, to come together, to debate, and sometimes to have the courage to change our minds. Controversy can be uncomfortable, however confrontations of ideas is an avenue to making norms evolve, to rendering the unacceptable acceptable and to building futures that are different of today’s realities. An inclusive society requires us to leave our comfort zones.

The last days at UN Climate Summit exhibited the benefits of including new voices. From all voices heard, young people seem to be the only one to dare saying things in at truthful and uncompromising way. And this was not the case only in New York –all over the world, young, informed people raised their voices in Global Climate Strikes. This truth is uncomfortable, but one day, hopefully in the near future, societies all over the world will thank these young people. We will thank them for forcing us to face the reality of climate change with real action, not announcements.

Listening to these voices is a start, but it is not enough! Encouraging these voices is good, but it’s not enough. We need to do more: we need to empower the players and anchor them in the decision process. We need to actively build on the strength of these new views, forces and perspectives, and anchor them in the political and economic systems of the future. The decisions we take today need to be determined by the future we picture.

In the preparation of KIREC Seoul 2019, another set of important voices need to be included more systematically in the energy transition –the voices of women. Though we certainly aim for gender equality on the panels, we are struggling with implementing this. This example shows again, we must actively work to anchor gender equality — in panel discussions and events, as well as more broadly into economic and political contexts. Part of our quest for a more inclusive society requires that we prioritise gender equality and include women as leaders to level the gender imbalance — in the energy sector and beyond.

Why do we need to include more women? As we accelerate the energy transition, another way of thinking is needed. The energy transition is an opportunity to give women an active role in all historically male-dominated sectors, to incorporate a multitude of fresh ideas and to break limiting molds. Just as much as renewable energy presents an opportunity for women, women are an opportunity for profound and positive changes in our energy systems. We need to tap into this opportunity.

Some of our members are engaging in gathering information about gender — IRENA and GWNET teamed with the Global Wind Energy Council to launch the Global Survey of the Wind Industry.  What I want to see now are structural changes that ensure young voices, women, and the underrepresented are heard. We need to be sure that decision-making processes are participatory, inclusive, and collaborative.

In the end, everything comes down to access to information, empowerment and governance. It is not enough to listen and applaud when a young person or a woman speaks up. Since true inclusivity is not the norm yet, it is necessary that we employ specific, strategic and structural attention to empower underrepresented individuals and groups of people and ensure their perspective is heard and respected.

I am not sure of how exactly we will achieve this. What I can say is that I will remain attentive. I will voice my reactions when situations seem unfair, and I will do my best to make for balanced representation whenever I have a part. I’ll close by thanking those who speak up. Even if what they say is criticised, unpopular or difficult.

— Rana Adib
Executive Secretary, REN21