The IKEA Foundation helps many organisations accelerate their efforts in combating climate change. Facts and figures speak for themselves, but who exactly are the people behind this extraordinary work? In this storytelling series, we spotlight brave individuals who move mountains in their climate action strategies and solutions. Today, Pascale Taminiaux, who coordinates the Fair Energy Transition for All (FETA) project at the King Baudouin Foundation, based in Belgium.
While I was studying for a master’s in biochemical engineering, I had a feeling that I’d like to have a broader view of society. So, after I’d finished, I started a new master’s programme in environmental sciences and policies. It completely opened my mind…
I became interested in the intersection of the environmental sciences and economics and applied for a fellowship in the United States to explore this. When I came back to Belgium, I worked in environmental consulting, helping companies integrate environmental issues into their strategies.
We developed a little consulting department related to sustainable development and businesses. The King Baudouin Foundation was one of my clients. In the end, they said: “Please come and join us!” For me, it was an opportunity to work in an organisation with strong values that’s really trying to make the world a better place.
Understanding people’s fears and concerns
The objective of the FETA project is to influence policy makers at EU and national level to take into account the voices of vulnerable people in the energy transition. We want to make sure that everyone is part of the process and avoid polarised policies. We’re reaching out to people who are unheard and invisible in nine countries, to understand their fears and concerns with regards to energy transition (housing, mobility, communications, who pays).
What makes me really proud is that we’ve been able to meet about one thousand people who would otherwise have been unheard. That’s the innovative aspect of the project – and a big, big challenge. The question was always: are we going to be able to reach out to those people? And will they want to share their feelings about energy transition?
We now have reports from the people we met in the nine countries and they’re feeding into the policy development process. From the policy makers’ side, we’re receiving a lot of interest at EU and national level. Rising energy prices mean this issue is on the top of the agenda today. Everyone is trying to find a way forward. I think we were in the right place, at the right time.
Making change happen
The FETA-project started via a discussion I had with my kids. I have four children and they’re young adults now. They were participating in all the demonstrations in the streets about climate change, before COVID-19.
I remember, they came back home and said: “It’s not worth anything. We’re not going to change anything – and in 25 years, we’re all dead.” I was so shocked that even my kids felt they were not able to give their voice to the people who can change things, to the policy makers. I said: “I don’t have the same point of view. You can try to change things.”
And I do believe that young people have the power to change things, but they need to find the right channels. Working in the Social Justice and Poverty Program at the King Baudouin Foundation, I realize how vulnerable people are excluded of the debates about issues that affect them directly such as climate change energy policies. They do not participate to demonstrations in the streets. . We said: “We need to find a solution to give people a voice.” Then we started drafting the idea for the FETA project. We tested it within the family, with friends, with colleagues and partners … and this is how it started. When I update my children about the progress of the project and what is said about it in the media, I say: “Look, this is yours too.”
If I had 10 minutes to speak at COP27, I’d say: “Please give the mic to unrepresented people. They’re concerned by the impact of the issue and are also part of the solution. Otherwise, it’s not going to work, and we’ll increase inequality instead of solving the problem.”
I think this also important for democracy. Through the FETA project we’ve met a significant number of people who believe they don’t have the power or the freedom to act, or to do anything about energy transition. There’s a lack of trust in institutions. It’s a risk for democracy because that’s where you’ll find the seeds of extremism or very radical thinking.
By trying to give a voice to those people, understanding their concerns and ideas, and involving them in the policy development process, I think we can increase the trust in our institutions and strengthen our democracies.
Hopes for the future
My biggest hope for the future would be that we can continue to innovate. I strongly believe in human beings and humanity to be able to find solutions to issues. Innovation for me is key, not only in the scientific sphere but in the social sphere, too.
We also need to accept the fact that it’s not going to be black or white. I like John Elkington’s concept of “Green Swans” in his book Green Swans: The Coming Boom in Regenerative Capitalism. These are“solutions that take us exponentially toward breakthrough.” You might have a technology which is not 100% environmentally friendly, but it’s one step towards a better solution. It might take some time to switch from a grey swan to a green swan, but we’re going in the right direction. That’s what I believe in for the future.
Pascale Taminiaux is the coordinator of the Fair Energy Transition for All (FETA) project at the King Baudouin Foundation, based in Belgium.
The IKEA Foundation supports the Fair Energy Transition for All, because they pave the way for a socially just transition to a low-carbon future by and for the many people, giving a voice to communities that are in danger of being left behind, and ensuring that climate action policies deliver a future where their families enjoy a better everyday life.