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Working together for climate protection and sustainability

Paola Yanguas Parra, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Fachgebiet Wirtschafts- und Infrastrukturpolitik der TU Berlin

Paola Yanguas Parra, wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin am Fachgebiet Wirtschafts- und Infrastrukturpolitik der TU Berlin
Image Credit: privat

The collaborative German-Colombian-South African research projectTRAJECTS – Transnational Centre for Just Transitions in Energy, Climate and Sustainability is bringing together universities and around 40 other participants from civil society, research and the private sector. The focus is on measures for climate protection such as fossil fuel phase-out and a reduction of the climate-damaging emissions through land-use change and agriculture. What does development like this towards greater sustainability mean for a country’s society and economy – how must these processes be accompanied? TRAJECTS is being funded in the DAAD programme Global Centres with a total of three million euros until 2025 and supported by the Berlin Center for Global Engagement (BCGE) of BUA.

Paola Yanguas Parra, TRAJECTS project coordinator at Technische Universität Berlin, explains the project.

What do the three project partners have in common?

Paola Yanguas Parra: In all three countries, either coal mining, the export or the use of coal for the electricity supply or heat supply still plays an important role. Germany is planning the coal phase-out by 2038. Colombia and South Africa are currently not yet this far, but there is an increasing awareness in civil society that this is absolutely necessary. In all three countries, the pressure on the political decision-makers is growing.

What is the situation like in Colombia and South Africa?

Yanguas Parra: South Africa obtains 80 percent of its electricity supply from coal, and the export of coal accounts for 4 to 5 percent of the total South African exports. In Colombia, it is the opposite: with a share of 15 to 20 percent of exports, coal plays a significant role in the Colombian economy – Germany also obtains coal from Colombia. However, the country meets its own electricity demand predominantly with hydropower.

How do problems arise?

Yanguas Parra: Coal production has a major impact on the environment and the local population. The pollution of air and water is a serious problem in coal mining regions. In Colombia, these are areas in which a large part of the population are indigenous groups. In light of the poor prospects for coal export, some of the large companies in coal production have already begun to leave the country. They are thereby evading their ecological and social responsibility. This is also one of the reasons why the coal mining union there, for example, is strongly committed to a just transition.

A phase-out of fossil fuels would also have far-reaching consequences…

Yanguas Parra: Exactly, this is where our project begins. If this phase-out process to achieve climate goals and to combat climate change is not adequately controlled, it can have enormous social and economic consequences for the regions and countries dependent on fossil fuels. This is why a process of change like this must be researched and accompanied – and for this reason, it is also so important to integrate civil society actors. An objective of TRAJECTS is also stronger networking between Colombia and South Africa – to promote the exchange beyond the current project.

What have you already been able to achieve with TRAJECTS?

Yanguas Parra: So far, we have been able to finance a total of over 20 PhD and master’s degree scholarships, mainly in Colombia and South Africa, and also to fund numerous research stays for junior and senior researchers from all three countries. I find it particularly pleasing that project alumni in Colombia have co-founded a think tank on the topic of energy transition, for example. With their studies, other project participants have supported the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) of the EU and other countries with South Africa. This shows that research can make a difference.

Further Information

The project:

The three research hubs in TRAJECTS are Technische Universität Berlin, Workgroup for Economic and Infrastructure Policy (WIP), the Institute of Environmental Studies (IDEA) at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNAL) in Bogotá and the Energy Systems Research Group at the University of Cape Town (UCT). The partners in the project are Europa-Universität Flensburg, Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

The project coordinator Paola Yanguas Parra studied Economics at Universidad Nacional de Colombia. She completed her Master of Public Affairs at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. Yanguas Parra subsequently worked at the think tank Climate Analytics. She has been an academic staff member at the TU since 2020.

TRAJECTS on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@trajectsevents3391