The social responsibility of Energy Transition in a global society

CU Awards - Essay Competition 2021

The energy transition from a social science point of view

SECOND PRIZE :  By - João Figueira, PhD School EIT InnoEnergy (2021)


Now more than ever, we are feeling the impact of moving towards a global society. Globalisation comes with several challenges that we weren’t prepared for over our entire existence. Globalisation comes with shared responsibility on threatening issues that put our lives in danger. Energy Transition is social responsibility acting up to sustain our way of living!

Globalisation is a reality nowadays. technological, social and political breakthroughs really pave the way to a global society. A global society would be characterised by being a unified society at a global scale where everyone is integrated with a common role in the world. This common role would also mean common responsibilities in a structured society including social responsibility. Social responsibility would be an ethical duty to act in the best interest of society. Massive connection, integration, and cultural exchange, outcomes from globalisation processes, make social responsibility lose its boundaries and barriers. Today, we see manifestations in one place moved by the disrespect of human rights in another part of the world. Human rights aside, a very humanly thing to protect is our unique living planet. Local air pollution has been proved to endanger our living conditions globally. For example, global warming is moved by air pollution that decreases the ability of our atmosphere to protect us against solar radiation. It has been proven to be potentiated by human activity, global social responsibility must be put into practice and counteract it.

Historically, we haven’t been prepared to care for global problems and global solutions to deal with them are lacking. Political administrations are used to having a closed jurisdiction with some finite impact in a global society. Barriers are no longer feasible when global problems need global solutions. Several multi-country entities have been formed to strategize the future in a sustainable way. Tolerance, equality and cooperation are crucial tools to face current global challenges. Whether it is a health pandemic or environmental protection, it is vital that people unify globally to sustain human living conditions on Earth.

The continuous growth of population and its increased concentration on big urban centres, the focus on capitalism and constant GDP increasing policies, the exploitation of finite resources and degradation of biodiversity, are some current trends that threaten our living conditions in the long run. These and several other trends that global society is adopting/characterised by having to be consciously discussed and adapted to accommodate sustainability, in the social, economic, and environmental perspective. In other words, our actions, or human activity, must be consciously based on what’s best for the three Ps - People, Profit, and Planet. These three priorities have to be combined to design our future and this would be the ultimate goal of acting moved by our social responsibility.

Global social responsibility must be put into practice when our activity is jeopardising our own living conditions. Human living conditions greatly depend on the availability of three things: Water, Food, and Energy. Focusing on energy, nowadays our living conditions (in every indoor environment – residential, commercial, and industrial) are more and more dependent on energy availability. Because of that, energy consumption is greatly increasing due to energyrelated end-uses, which are increasing in number and usage. Also, the availability of both water and food are more and more dependent on energy-consuming processes. Meaning, energy availability has become one of the most important commodities in modern societies.

Historically, energy production and how energy has been made available for consumption have been based on fossil fuel-based processes. This paradigm has been one of the pillars for modern societies since the industrial revolutions (transition from hand production methods to machinery, mass-production, increased standard of living, modern capitalist economy, etc.), firstly on a small scale but that is not true anymore. Today, we know that this paradigm has been creating undesirable impacts in our environment and, nowadays, these impacts are threatening our living conditions – namely global warming, natural resources depletion, lack of local availability of fossil fuels, and energy affordability fluctuations, among others. Global social responsibility has to be called out for an energy paradigm shift. This is now commonly called Energy Transition.

The energy transition is a paradigm shift to include sustainability in the provision of energy to all, meaning a global energy sector change from fossil-based to carbon-neutral. The energy transition is no more nor less than social responsibility taking place! The energy transition is based on shifting energy production towards renewable energy, making use of energy efficiency measures and, also, changing energy-consuming habits. This is a strategic roadmap to decarbonise the energy sector and stop emitting CO2, which is the main responsible for global warming.

So, Globalisation is an inevitable process inherent to evolution in a finite environment – our planet. This process comes with the understanding that we have to adapt our living conditions to guarantee the sustainability of our collective home. Also, the political heritage we all have based on capitalism, boundary-defined country borders, culturally divided, no longer can provide solutions for problems that need a globally mobilized action. The energy Transition has been a recurring answer for protecting the environment and sustaining living conditions. This answer is based on decarbonising the energy sector that has been negatively impacting the environment in a no longer acceptable way. In a global society, global social responsibility means pursuing a more sustainable energy sector and energy consumption habits!

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