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World Day of Social Justice: Advocating a just energy transition

Portrait image of Girton postgraduate student Lucía Belén Salazar-Gómez

On World Day of Social Justice, we spoke to MPhil in Environmental Policy student Lucía Salazar Gómez (2023) about her research on the just energy transition in Colombia

You’re studying for an MPhil in Environmental Policy. What does your project explore?

My MPhil dissertation project is titled 'Uncovering the narratives around the just energy transition in Colombia'. I am searching for the policy narratives which frame the political discourse on the issue and analysing their impact on its governance. 

In 2014, I began doing research in the field of environmental justice and its relation to waste management and the recognition of waste-pickers’ rights in Ecuador. Later on in 2017, I focused on women waste-pickers and the role of their labour in mitigating climate change in Latin America, then getting involved in the climate justice movement. Due to my research, I won the Women4Climate prize delivered by the C40 Cities coalition. 

Within the climate justice movement, there are a variety of important issues that require our attention. One of them is the energy transition and how to make it fair for all. I became interested in the issue as it is happening now at a very fast pace but not necessarily in the best way for everyone.  As a Latin American, I decided to focus on the just energy transition and to evaluate the narratives or perceptions around the issue from the leading country in the region on the subject: Colombia.

How does your project connect to your commitment to social justice?

There is a motto in environmental activism which says: "There cannot be social justice without environmental justice". The two are intertwined. Environmental matters are social matters, therefore addressing social inequalities and promoting justice in human societies is inherently linked to ensuring the wellbeing of the environment. 

In the environmental and climate justice movements we are talking and caring about intersectionality, intergenerational equity and global justice under the umbrella of not leaving anyone behind. When I talk about "justness" in the energy transition in my work, I apply all these principles to the governance of this process so we can tackle climate change in the best way for all.

I interact with a variety of people and coalitions from whom I acknowledge their perceptions of a path towards a just transition i.e. grassroot movements, indigenous leaders, businesses and government representatives. All their voices matter, all their narratives. 

What motivates you in your work?

I am passionate about the implementation of mechanisms to tackle climate change as the energy transition, but concern about how are they being developed. As a lawyer and human rights specialist, I always care about equity and equality, and it is important to me that social justice is a key feature of the energy transition.

My purpose is to publish it in a well-known journal and share it with high representatives of the Colombian government to contribute to their just energy transition path, and hopefully see it replicated in other Latin American countries. 

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