The energy sector has seen an increased focus on renewable energy production in the last decade. However, as of 2019, oil, coal and natural gas represented 82% of total global primary energy production, a share that has barely changed since 1990 (UNstats); despite increases in renewable energy production, there have also been increases in non-renewable energy production. Consequently, energy production and use accounts for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions globally and is the biggest contributor to global warming (UNEP). The UN high-level dialogue on energy highlighted that a major challenge is the need to provide access to affordable and reliable energy to 760 million people worldwide who currently lack access to electricity. Without comprehensive energy decarbonisation, the 1.5°C goal set by the Paris Agreement on climate change will quickly get out of reach.
The Tracking SDG7: Energy Progress Report 2020 shows that international financial flows to the Global South in support of renewable energy has been increasing steadily in recent years, growing by around USD 1.6 billion per year. The report notes that in 2017 almost half of international public investment was directed to hydropower projects, followed by solar (19%), wind (7%) and geothermal (6%). The report emphasises that the private sector remains the main provider of capital for renewables projects, accounting for 86% of investments in the sector between 2013 and 2018. A report from Ren21 emphasized how Global South countries outweighed Global North countries in renewable energy capacity investment for the fifth year running, reaching USD 152 billion. The report shows that renewable energy investment varied by region, rising in the Americas, including the “United States and Brazil, but falling in all other world regions including China, Europe, India, and the Middle East and Africa”.
The International Energy Agency notes that with more than USD 820 billion invested in the global power sector in 2021, of which USD 530 billion was directed at renewables, the energy sector has the duty and potential to foster a just energy transition by further investing in renewable energy. To do so, the SDG compass urges businesses to prioritise energy efficient practices and increase investment in R&D for clean energy while embedding social strategies in their policies to ensure a just energy transition. By means of example, multi-stakeholder initiatives emerge for the development of best practices and due diligence commitments such as the Renewable Energy Sector Responsible Business Conduct Agreement.+ Read more
While the international community and the energy sector have acknowledged the urgency of building an energy system that respects people and the environment through Sustainable Development Goal 7, many projects continue to significantly impact human rights, including in the Global South. As highlighted by the DIHR and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Development, these adverse human rights impacts include, among others, illegal land grabbing, unsafe working conditions, mistreatment of local and Indigenous populations, threats, corruption, attacks against human rights defenders, physical and economic displacement. Inadequate consultation and the failure to identify or address negative human rights impacts can drive community opposition to renewable energy projects. This might affect individual project operations as well as impact the financial, legal and reputational aspects of companies and investors.
Guiding frameworks for the energy sector:
- Sustainable Development Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- UN Global Compact in collaboration with the Global Reporting Initiative and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development outlines a number of key business actions relevant to SDG7
- The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development
- Paris Agreement, UNFCCC
- UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights
- The Renewable Energy Sector Responsible Business Conduct Agreement
- European Green Deal
- ILO Convention 169 (specifically for indigenous peoples)
- UNDRIP (specifically for indigenous peoples)
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains 17 Goals designed to ensure a sustainable future for all. Adopted in 2015 the SDGs are designed to guide and monitor national implementation efforts regarding these goals. SDG 7 refers to “ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. The energy sector can make a significant contribution to the economic aspects of development under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As stated by the United Nations Global Roadmap at the High-level Dialogue on Energy in September 2021, the energy sector can “catalyse action to combat climate change and attain many other SDGs, including on poverty eradication, gender equality, climate change, food security, health, education, sustainable cities and communities, clean water and sanitation, decent jobs, innovation, transport, and refugees and other situations of displacement”.
Indigenous Peoples and FPIC
Indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the face of energy projects. The dispossession of lands traditionally occupied by indigenous peoples and the accompanied marginalisation of cultural, political and economic activities is closely related to governing energy policies that were established without the consultation or participation of indigenous peoples. Additionally, the cultural significance attached to nature by indigenous communities means that environmental degradation disrupts their ability to practice their culture, as well as their livelihoods. The presence of security forces is also often linked to serious violations against indigenous peoples when large-scale projects are improperly managed. (Business for Social Responsibility)
An example of the incorporation of indigenous peoples as rightsholders can be seen in Chile’s Energy 2050 Policy. A report by the Danish Institute for Human Rights highlights that, “the Ministry of Energy committed, among other things, to develop training instances on renewable energy for Indigenous leaders focused on the topic of human rights and business.”
In a further example, in 2019 the Lake Turkana Wind Farm project in Kenya saw protests from local Indigenous peoples who claimed their customary rights to the land were violated in the absence of consent and participation by the community. The case of the Lake Turkana Wind Farm is not isolated as more than 197 allegations of human rights violations were identified by the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre against solar and wind projects since 2010, asking 127 different companies to be held accountable for their actions (Business and Human Rights Resource Centre). Moreover, the importance of civil society involvement was highlighted in a case regarding the Kasargod solar project in Kerala, India. Here, the lives and livelihoods of Adivasis (indigenous peoples) were impacted by the renewable energy projects in Kerala and the concerted support by civil society groups highlighted the need for the review of the social and environmental impacts of renewable energy projects. The report: ‘Renewable energy to responsible energy: a call to action’ noted the following: “Civil society’s role as watchdogs in the regulatory aspects of RE projects helps surface on-the-ground social and environmental impacts, prevent corruption, as well as encourage appropriate action”.
Finally, a landmark victory was achieved for the indigenous Saami communities in October 2021 where the Norwegian Supreme Court found a violation of the right to the enjoyment of culture by Saami due to the government granting of licenses for wind farms constructed in Saami grazing lands.
A gendered perspective is an important component to a just, equitable and sustainable energy transition to avoid deepening socio-economic, environmental and financial inequalities for women and girls. Traditional energy sources such as the collection of firewood, charcoal, dung other agricultural waste tend to fall under the purview of women and girls, and yet, in modern energy settings they are significantly underrepresented. Additionally, negative gendered impacts include restrictions to access to land and resources as well as harassment and violence related to the influx of workers and security to energy projects. As highlighted by the roundtable on the Rights of Women and Girls in the Energy Transition in Sub-Saharan Africa, women are underrepresented within the energy sector largely due to insufficient implementation of female-friendly and family-friendly public and company policies. The lack of ‘comprehensive gender-disaggregated data’ within the energy sector (including renewables) exacerbates a gender-blind approach that disadvantages women significantly. The Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) 2020 renewable energy benchmarking found that only two of the 16 companies assessed reported to have closed the gender wage gap and none of the companies committed to or achieved gender balance at the executive level or across the company. The Roundtable pointed out that women only make up 32% of workers in the renewable energy sector. Moreover, women and girls disproportionately face inequality associated with energy projects and correlated decision-making These were listed by the Roundtable as: “women have less access to energy; women workers are underrepresented in the green energy sector, particularly within leadership positions and those related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); women are largely absent in decision-making positions responsible for designing national energy strategies; and women may be subject to potential human rights abuses associated with renewable energy projects.”.
Responsible business conduct failure such as corruption can result in adverse human rights impacts and reputational harm. As noted by Business for Social Responsibility, “all power and utility companies—and especially those operating in countries with poor rule of law—are exposed to corruption risks. Corruption and bribery profoundly impact vulnerable communities, either by misdirecting funds that could be spent on healthcare, education, or other public goods or by preventing participation in the democratic process”. In the energy sector, corruption can be used to maintain conventional energy sources, slowing down a green energy transition. A recent study cited the example of Indonesia, where “natural resource management is prone to graft through companies bribing regional leaders to gain licences and permits for exploration and exploitation (…) leading to the greater use of dirty energy”.
The DIHR notes that it is crucial to “enhance transparency and accountability in energy governance, including through: proactively addressing corruption risks associated with the energy transition in accordance with the law; enhancing rights-holder participation and voice in the different stages of planning and development of energy transition initiatives; and facilitating a strong role for state institutions and state-based remedy frameworks in monitoring and addressing corruption risks.” On the industry side, the creation of an International RBC Agreement for the Renewable Energy Sector in 2019 is a major step in companies’ long-term commitment to implement the UNGPs on Business and Human rights. Another initiative worth mentioning is the Responsible Energy Initiative India, which is a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to enable the renewable energy sector in India and the Asia Pacific region to adopt business models and value chains that are ecologically safe, rights respecting and socially just.
Community health & safety
The energy sector can significantly affect communities by reducing their access to livelihoods and negatively affect their health. In Honduras, several renewable energy projects have caused health concerns among Indigenous communities. In the context of the Los Prados solar park, the local communities in Namasigüe are resisting the project as it has stripped them of their main livelihoods and caused water shortages in their territory (in a region of Honduras already very dry and water scarce). Residents claim that now the region is even more dry as the solar energy company has deforested an important area for livestock, caused temperatures to rise due to the reflection of the sun on the panels and the disappearance of the streams. Overall, the project’s impact over long-term will be water scarcity, deforestation and the appearance of new diseases (El Pais). As mentioned by the Columbia Center on Sustainable Development, communities can also be subject to physical threats and assaults from security personnel. To address this issue, companies can take action, as Enel has done by requiring its contractors and suppliers to adhere to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
Communities’ health and safety can also be impacted when companies fail to provide adequate emergency response. As BSR points out, “from natural disasters to hazardous waste spills, power and utilities companies have the potential to profoundly affect communities near their operations. The private sector is not only responsible for preventing and mitigating accidents and emergencies related to its operations, but for also participating in remedy mechanisms should they occur to ensure that their negative impacts are rectified”. By means of an example, in Honduras the Los Planes hydroelectric project has contaminated the Mezapa river, which supplies around 17,000 people, with faecal coliforms and E.coli bacteria.
Adverse labour rights impacts can arise at each phase of the energy value chain, most often in the form of forced labour. A salient example was pointed out by the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice, highlighting cases of forced labour in the solar industry in the Uyghur Region. As the report emphasizes, the Uyghur region is particularly likely to be exposed to forced labour related to the solar industry as it produces “45% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon supply”. The report highlights how the solar industry is being incentivized by the Chinese government, through “the adoption of state-sponsored labour programmes in the Uyghur Region, meaning that it is nearly impossible to avoid forced-labour-tainted raw materials if they are being sourced in the XUAR under the current regime”. With growing awareness on the issue of forced labour, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), has launched a campaign featuring a pledge that companies can sign to ban forced labour from their supply chains.
If companies fail to respect labour rights, the risks to workers’ health and safety will increase. BSR notes that “hazards such as electrocution for grid operators, exposure to toxic substances for waste pickers, and inadequate protective equipment for indirectly hired employees. Long hours and shift work are also common, amplifying the possibility of human error. Contracted workforces are most vulnerable to such risks and for companies of the sector, contractor and supplier due diligence is an essential component of labor and human rights risks management”.
Finally, workers’ right to collective bargaining and freedom of association can be impaired in the energy supply chain. As pointed it out by BSR, “outsourcing practices and greater independence of contractors may lead to a decline in collective bargaining and the effectiveness of workers’ councils or representatives. This could reduce worker protection and exacerbate discrimination for vulnerable workers”. With the aim to address the energy industry’s human rights issues such as labour rights, multiple solutions emerge. At national level, the DIHR takes the Kenyan example: “the NAP on Business and Human Rights recommends that Kenya could enact and implement legislation that provides a strong regulatory and institutional framework for protecting and promoting human rights in the management of natural resources”.
Related themes on GlobalNaps website
What National Action Plans say on Energy sector
- Strengthen and monitor respect for human rights in public procurement
Action by the Flemish Government:
The Flemish Authority will use public procurement to achieve its policy objectives, such as stimulating innovation, reducing human rights violations in the production chain, improving access to public procurement for SMEs and transitions to a circular and energy economy. – page 41
Pillar 1 / Strand 1: Training in the Field of Business and Human Rights
1.4 The Ministry of Energy will:
o Through the Division of Social Involvement and Dialogue, within the implementation framework of the Indigenous Chapter of the 2050 Energy Policy33, perform the following actions:
· Develop training sessions in renewable energy for indigenous leaders with focus
on business and human rights.
· Perform activities to transfer experiences and knowledge to companies, so that
they have information available for the development of energy projects in
· Develop actions to train business enterprises about human rights and corporate
activity, focusing on indigenous rights and cosmovision.
· Train indigenous peoples about business and human rights. This initiative will be
performed in conjunction with the Indigenous Affairs Unit of the Ministry of Social Development, which will facilitate coordination between initiatives carried out by both institutions – page 31
Pillar 1 / Strand 2: Dialogue
2.4 The Ministry of Energy, through the Division of Participation and Dialogue, will promote the creation of formal and steady opportunities for dialogue between businesses and communities in localities where they expect to install energy projects. Aimed at a smooth management of these opportunities, the “Guide for Participation Standards in the Development of Energy Projects” will be available to promote the existence, from the public sector, of mechanisms allowing to decrease the asymmetries existing between the parties, such a registry of advisors and facilitators to be used by communities; a symmetry fund allowing to finance the advisors and facilitators; complaints mechanisms allowing to forward complaints to the authorities that the parties may have regarding compliance with agreements; dispute resolution mechanisms allowing to resolve through alternative methods any disagreements that may arise in the dialogue process. Efficiency criteria set out in Guiding Principle No. 31 will be included in the design of the complaint mechanism.
Additionally, the Ministry will promote the development of “local governance mechanisms” in the localities where energy projects are installed. They will be composed of representatives from the community, business enterprises, local authorities and other actors that the parties may consider relevant, with the purpose of carrying out dialogue processes aimed at decision making connected with local development initiatives that may be developed from the presence of an energy project within the territory. – page 34/35
Pillar 1 / Strand 4: Transparency and Participation
4.1 The Ministry of Energy will:
o Encourage, within the framework of the Local Development Policy35, the participation of
communities in the different stages of the life-cycle of energy projects so that their interests may become known and be taken into consideration, as well as contributing to the general development of the localities receiving them. Diverse mechanisms will be promoted to facilitate participation (detailed in strand 2) and transparency in the processes carried out. Considering the above, an online Transparency Platform will be developed for communities to have access to the processes of dialogue that are taking or have taken place, the agreements reached and compliance, among other things.
o Include,withintheframeworkoftheIndigenousChapterofthe2050EnergyPolicy,in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy and the Indigenous Affairs Coordination Unit, business and human rights standards in the Indigenous Participation Guidance in the Development of Energy Projects.
o Promote, within the framework to implement the Indigenous Chapter of the 2050 Energy Policy, the right conditions for the social and technical viability of power generation projects, with total or partial participation in their ownership by the indigenous communities. – page 39/40
Pillar 1 / Strand 8: Legislation, Policies and Incentives
8.2. The Ministry of Energy will identify, promote and design the necessary mechanisms to implement the local development policy concerning energy projects. Among other things, the policy includes measures to support the assessment of impacts on the human rights of communities, and mechanisms to resolve the disputes that may arise between communities and business enterprises, within the context of the development of energy projects. – page 49
Pillar 2 / Strand 1: Contextual issues: Development of texts allowing business enterprises to understand the local context and the risks of potential negative impacts on human rights.
1.5. The Ministry of Energy will keep updated the standard guide for participating in the development of energy projects, and will prepare a guide for indigenous participation in the development of energy projects. It will also prepare the guide for local development of the localities where such projects are settled, which will drive the actions of business enterprises and communities about the contribution to development that can be offered by these institutions.
1.6. The Environmental Assessment Service will prepare the Guide for Describing the Human Environment with Gender Focus for the Assessment of Environmental Impact. Such Guide is meant for the owners of projects submitted to the SEIA. – page 53
Pillar 2/ Strand 2: Promotion of corporate due diligence in the field of human rights
2.2 The Ministry of Economy, Development and Tourism will:
Support the Ministry of Energy in the development of a Guide about the impact of projects on local communities, seeing to the integration of business and human rights standards into the development of projects within communities and, particularly, containing best practices about due diligence in human rights-related issues. – page 55
Pillar 3 / Strand 2: State-Based Non-Judicial Mechanisms
2.6 Within the framework of the Energy Policy, the Local Development Policy and the Chapter on Indigenous Relevance of Energy 2050, the Ministry of Energy will promote the development of mechanisms for the resolution of disputes between communities and business enterprises within the context of the development of energy projects, will may consist in, inter alia, mediation, redress or other mechanisms that may be relevant. – page 62
|The Czech NAP does not make a direct reference to the Energy sector.|
|The Danish NAP does not make a direct reference to the Energy sector.|
THE NATIONAL FRAMEWORK
10. THE REINFORCEMENT OF LEGISLATION
|The Georgian NAP does not make a direct reference to the Energy sector.|
|The Irish NAP does not make a direct reference to the Energy sector.|
IV. Italian ongoing activities and future commitments
Climate change: “carbon neutrality” / “energy neutrality”
“With regard to Italy and taking into consideration the goals set for 2030, the adequacy of the effort to be put in place for de-carbonisation can only be assessed starting within the framework of the current Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan. This is a planning tool provided for by Regulation (EU) 2018/1999 on the EU Energy Governance adopted after assessment by all stakeholders, both institutional and private, and which represents the country’s commitment and contribution for the implementation of the so-called “Climate and Energy Package”.
An important accelerating factor for the strengthening and implementation of the measures identified in the PNIEC is the new National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR), which gives the ecological transition a driving role in the relaunch of the country’s system. It assigns an important share of resources also for investments in sustainable mobility, renewable sources and energy efficiency, with a proper reference in mission n. 2 of the PNRR – “Green revolution and ecological transition”.
Further expanding the horizon to 2050, Italy has outlined its engagement path towards “climate neutrality” with a National Long-Term Strategy (LTS), also provided for in the aforementioned EU Energy Governance Regulation (EU) 2018/1999.
The Strategy incorporates virtuous energy-environmental trends triggered by the PNIEC from now until 2030 and identifies key levers to bring the Country to “zero net emissions.” It consists mainly of energy savings, mix of energy sources and new technologies to be developed in the short to medium term.
Being the PNIEC integrated in the PNRR, the transition from traditional fuels to renewable sources should be accelerated abandoning coal in favour of an increasingly renewable-based electricity mix with a residual and complementary rate of natural gas (and an increasing contribution of renewable gases: biomethane, hydrogen and synthetic methane).” (p. 39)
CHAPTER TWO: SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS AND THEMATIC AREAS OF FOCUS
|The Lithuanian NAP does not make a direct reference to the Energy sector.|
3.3 Clarifying due diligence
Sector Risk Analysis
|The Pakistanese NAP does not make a direct reference to the Energy sector.|
CHAPTER II – THE BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN PERU
Some specific sectors have adopted CER (Communities and Renewable Energy) approaches to a greater extent, such as mining, hydrocarbons, energy and agriculture. In 2002, the SNMPE approved a Code of Conduct, which has been developed over the years with the incorporation of new principles in 2016 and 2018. – page 31
CHAPTER III- DIAGNOSIS AND BASELINE: AREAS FOR ACTION
A series of commitments by companies to respect human rights can be noted, commitments that have been translated into documents such as the “Guide for the Peruvian business sector on business and human rights”, prepared by CONFIEP and the Global Compact Peru, as well as codes of conduct, corporate policies and even management protocols, mainly in the mining, hydrocarbons, energy and agriculture sectors. – page 41
2. Dialogue and exchange of knowledge and experience in implementing CSR
There are four categories of corporate activities that relate to corporate social responsibility: corporate governance, employees, the environment, and the product. The activities conducted within these categories may include: (…)
Principle 3(d): In meeting their duty to protect, States should: Encourage, and where appropriate require, business enterprises to communicate how they address their human rights impacts.
|The Swedish NAP does not make a direct reference to the Energy sector.|
IV. The corporate responsibility to respect human rights
B. Actions taken
State encouragement of respect by businesses for human rights
The Taiwanese government has launched a Green Finance Action Plan that identifies green energy technology and other key industries as top-priority recipients of financial institution support so that they can spur the achievement of energy conservation and carbon reduction targets and environmental protection goals. – page 11/12
Appendix 1: Concrete actions taken by Taiwan to fulfill the state obligation to protect
Article 26-1 of the “Government Procurement Act” stipulates that an entity may prescribe technical specifications in accordance with Article 26 to promote the conservation of natural resources and protection of environment, and adopt related measures to save energy, save resources, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Increases in project expenditures or technical service fees, if any, shall be incorporated into the project budget for approval when preparing the technical specifications or measures. – page 24
Article 25 of the “Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Management Act” stipulates that all levels of government, public education institutions, and government-run enterprises shall promote energy saving and use energy-efficient products or services to reduce GHG emissions. – page 25
Article 26 of the “Statute for Industrial Innovation” provides as follows:
Appendix 2: Concrete actions taken by Taiwan to ensure respect by businesses for human rights
Governments can provide information and support to enterprises. The Taiwan government has implemented several regulations and measures to provide enterprises with guidance and support, including the following:
To encourage the sustainable development of industries, the central authorities in charge of relevant enterprises may provide enterprises with grants or guidance to promote the following matters: (a) Assisting enterprises in adapting to international regulations for environmental protection and health and safety. (b) Promoting the development and application of technology relating to greenhouse gas reduction and pollution prevention. (c) Encouraging enterprises to improve the efficiency of their energy and resource consumption and to adopt relevant technologies that may recycle/renew energy/resources and save energy and water. (d) Production of non-toxic, less-polluting products and other products that reduce the burden on the environment. – page 31
3.2 Action plan for community, land, natural resources and the environment
3.2.3 Action Plan (2019–2022)
Activities: Organize discussions and public hearing to receive people’s opinions, including from related ethnic groups in the area. The public and communities should get access to complete information and participate in decision-making processes easily, as well as giving comments on the evaluation of the effect on the environment, land expropriation considerations, land management and forest conservation of the government, etc. before undertaking any project, including large-scale projects relating to energy management, power plants, petroleum, and drilling for the exploration of natural resources, in order to encourage people and communities to have a role in determining project operation areas, considering the way of life and culture. – page 76
|The United States NAP does not make a direct reference to the Energy sector.|