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It’s time for energy advocacy

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By Thaddeus Anim-Somuah

· 5 min read

The urgency of energy advocacy

Over the past year, energy has surged to the forefront of global political, corporate, and social discussions. We Europeans have been entrenched in an "energy crisis", as escalating prices fuel what we now recognize as the "cost of living crisis". The Energy Trilemma of Energy Security, Energy Equity, and Environmental Sustainability has gained unprecedented relevance, with nations confronting affordability, supply challenges, and tough decisions amidst the escalating climate emergency, heightening the imperative for an energy transition. Each crisis underscores our societal unpreparedness. Without preparation and progress, we risk repeating history. How do we shift the narrative? How do we reclaim control to foster resilience and accelerate the energy transition? The solution lies in advocacy—advocacy that spurs action and ensures accountability.

Mobilizing for change

Now is the time to use your voice to advocate for change: the stage of the energy crisis has been set, and we are standing on the burning platform of climate emergency. The world is watching, listening. The EU Commission has recongnised the importance and power of individual citizens, calling on them to participate in the realisation of the European Green Deal through the EU Climate Pact. The pact has given rise to a community of ambassadors using their voices to grassroots initiatives in their areas and businesses. Energy leaders in business have echoed this call for more advocacy for the energy transition. Last year’s Let’s Go Green Summit, organized by the World Energy Council France, Future Energy Leaders, and PwC in Paris, was highly encouraging. Keynote speaker and Group Chief Strategy Officer of Engie, Charlotte Roule, highlighted that having formulated the global goal to limit global warming to 1.5C in the Paris Agreement in 1992, we’ve veered off course, with emissions increasing by more than 50%. Urging attendees to advocate for a shift in trajectory, she emphasized the importance of promoting their sustainability ideas. She underscored that the energy transition requires all solutions, not just one versus the other.

Advocacy beyond the conference room

But Charlotte’s speech was just the start, as the day continued in the same light with energy stakeholders from business, consultancies, government, regulators, startups, and others advocating and brainstorming concrete solutions to accelerate the transition. Collectively, necessary steps to be taken by stakeholders were outlined. My personal contribution was to discuss the barriers I see to the energy transition, as well as the advocacy needed to overcome them. I believe that, together, we can drive the energy transition by implementing four concrete strategies:

1) Changing mindsets through humanizing energy to improve energy understanding, create a long-term vision, and increase alignment of short-term actions with future needs. This would ensure continuous progress towards the energy transition with intermediate checks & balances. This could also ensure that enablers to the transition such as infrastructure are taken into account on time.

2) Demanding transparency on the impact of the products/services we make and use , empowering individuals to make informed decisions in their consumer behavior and take the actions that make the most impact.

3) Increasing the adoption of digital solutions to increase the resource efficiency of existing assets while accelerating the development of innovative technological solutions to reduce emissions.

4) Prioritizing circularity to create a new sustainable economy. Choosing circular products such as refurbished electronics or circular consumption models such as product sharing is a way to reduce our emissions while maintaining quality of life. Given the scale and speed of the emissions reductions required: consuming less must be part of the solution.

Advocacy in action: shaping consumer behavior and workplace culture

The advocacy didn’t conclude on that day or within that room. The conference served as an energizer, providing inspiration, motivation, and connections to extend the impact beyond the confines of the event. The question now is: what comes next? Initiating or continuing advocacy efforts can sometimes feel daunting, but I believe the best starting point is within your own circles. According to the UN IPCC, changing our consumer decisions can reduce emissions by 40-70%. Each expenditure represents a vote and an investment in the entire manufacturing supply chain and economic model. Our behavior can indeed change the world. You have the power to effect this change through advocacy in your personal life. As you know your friends and family best, you are best positioned to transform advocacy into action.

The advocacy I witnessed in Paris and that emerged from the event extended beyond personal life into the professional sphere. Workplace advocacy or positive workplace activism may face resistance and be viewed negatively, but this shouldn't deter us. In fact, it underscores the importance of such efforts. Veronique Swinkels (Worldconnectors Board Member) and Tessa Wernink (Fairphone Co-Founder) initiated "The Undercover Activist" to aid organizations in advancing workplace activism and supporting individuals in their advocacy. They convey to businesses that "Activism is love made visible." Employees are speaking out, taking action, and effecting change for causes they believe in. Businesses are responding by rebranding and adopting sustainability-oriented mission statements. In the workplace, you can utilize this momentum to ensure companies align with their stated values and translate them into action. While not all leaders may readily embrace advocacy, every advocate can make a difference, and even without full endorsement, your advocacy can drive positive change as organizations seek a competitive edge.

Embracing proactive change through advocacy

I firmly believe that the energy transition is not just necessary but inevitable due to climate change. The crucial question is how and when you choose to act. Will you take proactive steps to lead and gain an advantage, or will you wait until external pressures force a transition, leaving you with no control and no advantage? I strive for the former.

In April 2024, I will participate in the World Energy Congress in my hometown of Rotterdam to advocate on a larger scale for urgent action on the energy transition. I am excited to extend this invitation to you, as the World Energy Council will convene over 7000 stakeholders under the theme of "Redesigning Energy for People and Planet." I am already engaged in the #RoadtoCongress initiative to connect with like-minded advocates and contribute to shaping a new energy future. Together, through advocacy, we can create transparency, build trust, and drive the transformation required. Our advocacy drives change. Will you join us in being part of that change?

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Thaddeus Anim-Somuah is Global Senior Manager Sustainability at Philips and Board Member Future Energy Leaders at World Energy Council. He also has held several board and advisory positions at engineering associations, universities and startups.

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