What does a just transition mean to me?

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Climate hero Mark Pepper of Ambition Lawrence Weston shares his thoughts on attending and speaking at COP26.

by Mark Pepper, Ambition Lawrence Weston

What does a just transition mean to me, coming from a disengaged, disempowered, deprived, so-called ‘left behind community’ like mine… Not a lot.

Some residents here in my community aren’t even sure what the words “just transition” means.

For me, I’m guessing it means a “fair” transition, where the transition is accessible to all, the opportunities that may come, come to all, the upskilling and training needed to facilitate a transition is offered to all, the economic benefits, benefits all, and the new technologies and resources, currently available, are accessible to all.

For this accessibility and fairness to happen, voices from all communities need to be heard, the narrative and language needs to change to ensure all can understand it.

Thankfully many others understand this. They understand that people like me need to have “a seat at the table” if we have any chance of ensuring a just transition.

Three of these “many others” include organisations such as Power to Change, Barrow Cadbury Trust and Community Energy England, who between them enabled me to attend and take part in COP 26 in Glasgow, and therefore “take MY seat at the table”.

And what a fantastic privilege, honour and learning experience that was.

I felt that me and my community were included, that our opinions were valued, our thoughts and messages were listened too, that we are being considered, and that many people and organisations from all different backgrounds, cultures, countries, and privilege truly do want to ensure that a just transition happens.

I came away with a mass of knowledge, understanding, and awareness to share with my community.

This will help us better understand the climate emergency and what we can do to help reduce our negative impact on climate, and ensure we are best placed to facilitate and encourage a just transition happens here.

At Cop 26 I attended many talks and events with people from all over the world, faced by real serious life-threatening challenges. That made me feel pathetic, that I was moaning about having to do things like pay a congestion charge, moaning that we can’t afford to buy an electrical vehicle, that we can’t afford to change our boilers, when there’s continents flooding, forests burning, fishermen with nothing, can’t fish because of the water pollution has killed all the fish. The list goes on.

But I guess it’s all relative, I am limited in what I can do to address climate, but I/we can do something, we can do loads, we have to do loads, whether its an “inconvenience” or not.

Developed countries and governments like ours must practice what we preach, before we can expect others to follow. And that’s the same for, and starts with, communities like mine and me.

As I say it was an absolute privilege to be at COP 26, what a story I have to tell my grandkids in the future.

I’m not sure what the outcome of COP 26 will be, how the negotiators get on, what changes get made, but I pray and hope that its not a case, of my story to my grandkids, being one of: “I was there.. I was there when we failed to save the planet”