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JUSTENERGY project reports on the role of the media in the energy transition narrative

Researcher Susana Batel (CIS-Iscte) recently presented the results of the first and second studies of the JUSTENERGY project (EXPL/COM-CSS/1510/2021), financed by national funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., at various dissemination events.

© 2023 Hugo Cruz | Iscte

In a first study, JUSTENERGY investigated how media communication about the transition to green energy in Portugal relates to right-wing populist rhetoric, and in a second study it analyzed how the green transition is being received in communities in territories where large-scale renewable energy generation infrastructures are being built, such as wind farms and solar power plants, as in the cases of Graciosa and Castelo de Vide, territories that also saw a greater Chega (right-wing party) presence, in the form of a coalition or an increase in votes, respectively, in the last elections. The project thus aims to understand and propose recommendations for how political decision-makers can promote a fairer and more inclusive transition to green energy. In addition to being featured in the Portuguese media (Público, Executive Digest), the project team organized several debates on the results of these two studies throughout the month of November.

On November 11, on the island of Graciosa, António Reis (Mayor of Santa Cruz da Graciosa), Duarte Silva (Central Head of Graciólica), Paulo Espínola (President of the Executive Board of Centro Escolar da Graciosa) and Susana Batel met in a round table to discuss the results of the two studies. One of the main points of discussion was around the growth of the Chega vote and how this relates to the lack of political solutions from current governments at national and regional level to solve structural and core problems in more peripheral territories, such as this one. Some of the most difficult problems to solve in Graciosa today, which are a barrier to the island's socio-economic development, are the lack of water quality, the lack of local production of essential goods and the lack of basic sanitation in some areas of the island and a waste treatment plant. The Graciólica project, consisting of a wind farm, solar power plant and energy storage, was therefore discussed as a project that could have generated more returns in terms of local socio-economic development.

© 2023 Maria Mascarenhas Alba | Iscte

Also on November 22, the debate "The role of the media in Portugal, between right-wing populism and a just transition: Discussion of the results of the FCT JUSTENERGY exploratory project", which focused on the discussion of the results of the project's first study and took place at Iscte - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, brought together the project leader with Clara Barata (Journalist at Público newspaper), Tiago Sigorelho (Chairman of the Board of Gerador), Manuel Afonso (Activist in the Jobs for Climate Campaign), Islene Façanha (Climate activist and public policy analyst at Zero). Some of the main points of discussion were the importance of considering that climate justice is at the heart of the responses to several of the crises that our societies are going through, and that the media has an increasingly important role to play in discussing in an informed and in-depth way the causes and possible solutions to the climate crisis that we are experiencing and that is so urgent to address. This debate was recorded in audio format, which you can listen to here [in Portuguese]:

© 2023 Hugo Cruz | Iscte

Finally, the project team met in Castelo de Vide on November 25 to discuss the results of the two project studies with Ana Paula Travassos (Director of the Castelo de Vide School Group), António Simão (President of the Parish Council of Nossa Senhora da Graça de Póvoa e Meadas), Tiago Malato (Former PS Councillor in Castelo de Vide). Here, one of the main points of discussion was the lack of engagement of local communities in the plans made and discussed for the construction of solar power plants in the municipality. It was also mentioned how the desertification of this territory, coupled with increasing disinvestment in terms of empowering rural areas with basic infrastructures and services, leads to the erosion of a more active and informed citizenship on the part of its population. The need for political representatives who are knowledgeable about issues associated with the energy transition and climate justice and who participate in discussion sessions on these issues with local communities and demand their rights from the central government was discussed. The increases in the Chega vote are thus seen as a protest against the government's inability to solve local problems and a revolt against the abandonment of these more rural territories. The energy transition is thus seen as yet another way of continuing this extractivist attitude towards rural areas, with no benefits for local communities.

© 2023 Maria Mascarenhas Alba | Iscte

Susana Batel hopes that these discussions will contribute "to a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities of the transition to green energy, informing media professionals, but also supporting policy-makers and citizens to take action". The project's first study, which has already been submitted for publication, was written by Susana Batel (CIS-Iscte), Andreia Valquaresma (CIS-Iscte), Ana Isabel Afonso (CRIA-Univ.Nova), Rita Guerra (CIS-Iscte) and Luís Silva (CRIA-Univ. Nova). A systematization of its main results is available for consultation here [in Portuguese]:

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