This paper explores case studies of green colonialism, supply chain injustices, and poor e-waste management within renewable energy life cycles, and investigates how the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) may be the best suited organization to address and mitigate these issues on a global scale. While renewable energy technology is often heralded as the key to a sustainable future, the life cycle of these technologies is riddled with human rights violations and other injustices. To begin with, many of the minerals required for assembling the hardware are mined in unregulated environments, resulting in several injustices such as health and safety hazards for miners, child labor, and insufficient pay and protection for the miners. Furthermore, many manufacturing factories for renewable energy hardware have unregulated emissions, creating a hazardous environment for communities living near the factories. During the construction phase of the renewable energy life cycle, there are many cases of the land required for the projects being stolen from Indigenous populations through force, coercion, or political maneuvering, thus putting more unnecessary burdens on communities who have faced centuries of oppression and marginalization. Finally, at the end of life of the renewable energy tech, the hardware is sent to e-waste scrapyards in low-income countries where human rights violations similar to those seen in the mining industry are commonplace. Over the first decade of its existence, IRENA has had unprecedented success in creating an international community supporting knowledge sharing of renewable energy policy and construction best practices. As a result, it has the collaborative infrastructure and information pathways required to quickly brainstorm and disseminate policies to manage and mitigate these poignant issues surrounding renewable energy. By increasing focus on energy justice, pursuing active collaboration with Indigenous Nations, and encouraging reduced energy consumption in Western countries, IRENA could become a key leader in a globalized energy justice movement that would not only save countless lives and livelihoods, but also help to legitimize renewable energy’s promise of a sustainable future.
Ross, G. Webster
"Injustice Within Renewable Energy Life Cycles: Can IRENA Offer a Solution?,"
IdeaFest: Interdisciplinary Journal of Creative Works and Research from Cal Poly Humboldt: Vol. 6, Article 8.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.humboldt.edu/ideafest/vol6/iss1/8