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Shared prosperity models & Indigenous leadership for a just transition

News and resources from Indigenous Peoples Rights International and Business & Human Rights Resource Centre exploring the significant opportunity of Indigenous co-ownership of renewable energy projects, for an energy transition that is fast, just and equitable.

Indigenous and rural communities, enlightened companies and investors, and public-spirited governments are already demonstrating that it is not only possible but advantageous to build renewable energy projects that deliver shared prosperity and recognise Indigenous leadership.
Joan Carling, Executive Director, Indigenous People’s Rights International; and Phil Bloomer, Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Investment into renewables is growing rapidly: according to the International Energy Agency, for every USD 1 spent on fossil fuels, USD 1.7 is now spent on clean energy. Five years ago, this ratio was 1:1. Large national and international energy companies are currently dominating the shift to renewable energy – but a growing body of evidence suggests that alternatives, such as community-owned or co-owned models are also on the rise: from microgrids and small-scale renewables to Indigenous ownership and co-ownership of larger commercial-scale projects, these offer a significant opportunity for an energy transition that is fast, just and equitable. A truly just energy transition will ensure respect for human rights, fair negotiations and shared prosperity.

Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Participants in the Conference on Indigenous Peoples and the Just Transition

Indigenous representatives from seven socio-cultural regions met to discuss address the pressing issues surrounding a just energy transition in a first-of-its-kind conference ahead of thes UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), organised from 12 – 14 April 2024 by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Indigenous Peoples Rights International (IPRI) and Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples (REP). The declaration highlights the central importance of a global shift towards renewable energy – but calls out the catastrophic failure to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples thus far and the damage this is causing to people and planet. Putting Indigenous Peoples front and centre and supporting their empowerment to spearhead renewable energy initiatives is a key ingredient for delivering a fair, fast and effective energy transition, as well as being essential for self-determined sustainable development.

Challenging renewable energy harms

Indigenous Peoples are affected by the renewable energy value chain in numerous ways, ranging from the extraction of transition minerals to the development of renewable energy projects on their lands. It is estimated that 50% of transition mineral reserves are on Indigenous territories, and a large percentage of renewable energy potential is located on marginalised rural communities’ land, especially that of Indigenous Peoples. These projects have so far led to numerous violations of Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

Effective regulation

Many governments are pursuing policy reforms that do not respect Indigenous Peoples’ rights, especially regarding their lands, territories and resources, their self-determination and their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). This is compounded by an increase in authoritarian governance, restrictions on civic freedoms, and attacks on those seeking to protect people and planet from harms – human rights defenders (HRDs), among whom Indigenous defenders are disproportionately affected. Enabling conditions such as robust, rights-centred corporate accountability regulation, coupled with legal, policy and financial frameworks that enable Indigenous Peoples to engage in these projects, are key to making Indigenous self-determined decisions a reality. This will aid in reversing the historical practice of concentrating power in the hands of a powerful few, while undermining the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous leadership

Despite the complex circumstances, many Indigenous Peoples and Nations are forging ahead in leading significant clean energy projects. In projects initiated by renewable energy companies on or close to Indigenous lands, Indigenous Peoples are also increasingly seeking more ownership and control of these projects. Evidence points to this growing trend in many parts of the world, including Canada and the USA, but also in Kenya, New Zealand and elsewhere. Through their own self-determined decisions, some Indigenous communities also choose to support and lead mining projects for the extraction of transition minerals – for example in Peru and Papua New Guinea, among other places. Indigenous Peoples’ leadership and self-determination is one key to a fast, just and equitable energy transition and successful, sustainable approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation will prioritise their expertise and knowledge.

This hub

This hub explores the potential of co-ownership models to reduce systemic risk to individual renewable energy projects and the global energy transition as a whole, through creating shared prosperity, centring Indigenous Peoples’ perspectives. Through this hub, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights International (IPRI) and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre will provide research, analysis and our evolving learning on this topic. We will compile resources, tools and voices of Indigenous Peoples from around the world, connecting movements and making the case for companies, investors and governments to commit to promoting and using these models to shape the future of the energy transition. Given the importance of bringing these ideas into the business and human rights conversation, we are focusing on projects that feature community involvement in commercial developers’ renewable energy projects.

IPRI/BHRRC

Given the importance and centrality of Indigenous-led renewable energy projects to the transition, we are also including resources and news on projects that are fully owned by Indigenous Peoples. Moreover, we will track news on other types of benefit sharing, such as community payments, local employment and procurement, and alternative skills and livelihoods development related to renewable energy deployment, which are important for many communities in relation to large scale wind, solar and other renewable energy projects.

Key priorities

Co-ownership models with commercial partners hold promise, but also risks. Respect for human rights is the foundation for any discussion on co-ownership and benefit-sharing. This is particularly the case for Indigenous Peoples’ self-determination, rights to lands, territories and resources, and their FPIC. If grounded in respect for human rights, co-ownership models may be one important way to put power – literally and figuratively – back into the hands of those who have historically been exploited by energy and natural resource industries. Human rights and environmental risks, land grabs, displacement of communities and attacks on Indigenous HRDs can potentially be avoided, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights, including FPIC, respected and more meaningfully implemented through them. With the renewable energy industry ramping up significantly, now is an opportune time for a shared prosperity approach.

Resources & updates

Learning from success in renewable energy: Indigenous leadership & shared prosperity

Joan Carling and Phil Bloomer underscore the golden opportunity we have to deliver true, shared prosperity, with good jobs, resilient livelihoods, healthier environments and thriving communities.

Resources & events

This is a growing area of work for Indigenous Peoples Rights International and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Find out more about our resources, events and updates here.

Key concepts & definitions

What do we mean when we talk about shared prosperity? Explore key terms.

Information from other organisations

Check out reports and tools from other organisations.

Community ownership of renewable energy: How it works in nine countries

Institute for Human Rights and Business spotlights Indigenous and local community partnerships in renewable energy in Canada, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, Norway, Scotland, Sweden and the USA.

Project ownership models for remote renewable energy development in partnership with Indigenous communities

This report explores different ownership models for renewable energy projects involving First Nations in Canada.

Decarbonising electricity and decolonising power: Voices, insights and priorities from Indigenous clean energy leaders

Report highlights the increasing ownership and control of clean energy projects by Indigenous communities in Canada, while grappling with historical injustices and environmental impacts from past renewable energy projects.

Indigenous-led coalitions and organisations working on the renewable energy transition

Right Energy Partnership

The Right Energy Partnership with Indigenous Peoples (REP) is an Indigenous-led, multi-stakeholder partnership that aims to increase renewable energy systems that respect human rights and leverage the leadership of Indigenous Peoples to develop solutions. It has the goal of providing 50 million Indigenous Peoples access to renewable energy that is consistent with their self-determined needs by 2030.

Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) Canada

The Indigenous Clean Energy (ICE) initiative promotes Indigenous leadership in the transition to a clean energy future. Their mission is to promote Indigenous leadership and inclusion through meaningful collaboration with energy companies, utilities, governments, development firms, cleantech innovators, the academic sector and capital markets.

SIRGE Coalition

The SIRGE Coalition is a collective of Indigenous Peoples and allies advocating for a just transition to a low-carbon economy while safeguarding Indigenous rights, self-determination, and environmental well-being, with a focus on responsible mineral extraction and adherence to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

First Nations Clean Energy Network

The First Nations Clean Energy Network in Australia is a national, First Nations-led coalition of First Nations people, community organisations, land councils, unions, academics, industry groups, technical advisors, legal experts, renewable energy companies, and others, working in partnership to ensure that First Nations people and communities share in the benefits of the clean energy boom.

Sacred Earth Solar

Sacred Earth Solar is an Indigenous women-led organization that works in solidarity with impacted Indigenous communities who are protecting their homelands by bringing solar power directly to the frontlines. Providing renewable energy allows front line land defenders to protect themselves when asserting jurisdiction of their territories while directly opposing fossil fuel projects. Energy sovereignty allows for place-based renewable solutions that align with the laws and jurisdiction of each distinct Indigenous Nation.