Just Energy Transition

Photo by Justin Hu on Unsplash

Just transition means that society shares both tangible and intangible costs and benefits of transitioning to a low-carbon economy in a socially just way. The 2015 Paris Agreement recognizes just transition as a key principle of climate change. Without just transition, we risk increased polarization and eroding public support for action on climate change. However, the concept finds limited applicability in Canada, restricted to the government-mandated phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation. Across Canada, Indigenous peoples are shouldering a disproportionate social and economic burden of non-renewable sources as well as transitioning to renewable sources of energy (Mertins-Kirkwood & Deshpande, 2018). For example, the high costs of purchasing, transporting and storing hydrocarbon fuel directly impact housing stability, rendering many homeless (Agrawal, 2020). Also concerning is serious barriers to transition, such as high cost, lack of appropriate technology to store excess power, and remoteness of the region. Building on the supervisor’s ongoing research works examining intertwined issues related to Northern housing, this project will explore connections between energy supply, public policy, and human and Indigenous rights of self-determination in the Tlicho, Dene, Sahtu, and Beaufort Delta regions of NWT. It aims to promote the significance of Indigenous community-led energy transition and socio-economic well-being in advancing reconciliation, contributing to the TRC Calls to Action.

The study intends to answer three questions:

1. What is the connection between the concept of just transition and energy production in Canada’s north?

2. What are the sustainable ways and renewable sources of producing and supplying energy to Northern remote Indigenous communities?

3. Do alternative forms of production and consumption of energy contribute to a just transition?

The student will learn and employ multiple research methodologies, carry out various elements of the research, and eventually publish the research with their names attached. The method will involve collecting data from the Government of NWT, civil society organizations such as Arctic Energy Alliance, First Nations communities, and the NWT Power Corporation. The project allows the student to build a rapport with the officials, helping them build their post-academic careers.