Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETPs) are a form of international cooperation, in which a group of donors provides financial resources against an explicit target on a key indicator of the energy system by the recipient developing country. Four such deals have been signed since COP26 (South Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam and Senegal). This approach has come across as the most striking recent innovation in international discussions to support climate ambition and implementation. After two years and taking advantage of the variety of the four country contexts, lessons from these JETP experiences can help inform future deals. This diagnosis can also provide lessons for innovative approaches to international cooperation, which are critically needed as an outcome of the Global Stocktake under discussion at COP28. Consistently with results from the Deep Decarbonization Pathways initiative and regional perspectives in Latin American and the Caribbean and in Africa, we notably find that international cooperation works better if it adopts a needs-based, sector-driven, solutions-oriented and forward-looking approach.
Most JETP deals are in early stages, and we are too far from the finish line to be able to soundly assess their impact. They are all facing difficulties and delivering non-peripheral benefits. Irrespective of the outcome each deal will eventually achieve, it can already be recognised that the JETP approach represents a step in the direction of what implementation of the Paris Agreement should do: spurring across-the-board actors on action, support and collaboration based on common goals and pathways that countries define and regularly revise as a result of the collective assessment of progress, gaps and opportunities. As such, JETPs provide a good lens to analyse international cooperation and identify concrete criteria to make it fit for purpose.
Promoting a country-driven perspective
JETPs are country-specific deals, which guarantee they are all context sensitive. But this is not enough to ensure they are really country-driven which is a matter of domestic ownership, on which the different deals have performed very heterogeneously. The South African JETP is considered a good example on this, referred to as firmly domestically driven–and domestically contested. Senegal also showed African countries are not passive beneficiaries of climate finance by connecting their input into the negotiation with a process that gathered a broad range of local stakeholders–government, research, civil society, and the private sector–who worked on a realistic vision for their country. This group of stakeholders reached a consensus on the share of renewables in the electricity mix by 2030 they considered ambitious and doable with international support, which is now the JETP official commitment. Indonesia’s process faced the difficulty of having multiple visions of the transformation of the energy system pathways, aggravated by the fact that its JETP Secretariat charged with the development of the JETP Investment Plan is constituted by working groups which are led by international agencies. Hence, the resulting commitments.
do not follow the national strategies resulting from stakeholder consultations, creating confusion among domestic players and leading to an impoverished national ownership.
Across countries, in-country stakeholders have requested a clear problem definition and association of the key objectives of these partnerships towards the development of a prosperous and resilient nation. Concerns have been continuously raised within countries in terms of their misalignment with national development goals and priorities. The JETP narrative must speak to domestic stakeholders, as cooperation sometimes clashes with a narrower climate/energy vision promoted by contributing countries, as experienced for instance in the African context. The Senegalese JETP took the universal energy access into account, even if not included with specific target. The ‘just’ framing of the deals has been symbolically important but its impact on ensuring just transitions in practice praised very critically, both from civil society but also in the corridors of countries’ talks. Indonesia introduced as part of the JETP Investment Plan a ‘Just Transition Framework’ at project level, which notably includes robust stakeholder engagement. South Africa developed a ‘Just Transition Framework’ in response to a holistic national planning to a decarbonised and resilient society and required JETP to fit under the existing framework. Overall countries have felt the need to organize in-depth stakeholder consultations to ensure that the development priorities of the country are taken into account, which is a sign that it is not necessarily the case in the initial design of the political deal or not anchored in established country visions. Moreover, beyond national borders, as international cooperation mechanism, JETPs are also expected to contribute to the sustainable development and operationalisation of equity, thus reducing inequalities across and within countries.
Reinforcing national capacities
From JETPs experience, national capacities are a pre-requisite for attempting to have a needs-based and forward-looking approach to international cooperation that gives way to true partnerships. This capacity enables in-country actors to develop their detailed visions and roadmaps and construct a strong societal debate that legitimises decision-making. It also allows countries to be represented and actively participate in the relevant foras where international solutions are designed.
JETPs showed that the existing in-country capacities at the outset of these processes makes a huge difference. Nevertheless, the main learning is that the process itself becomes a monumental contribution to building capacity, independently from the starting point. The partnership has provided support, tools and time for countries who had not done so yet, to create a long-term energy transformation plan over multiple decades and for others to further deepening the understanding of necessary short-term action. Also on contributing countries side, moving from project-based to system-change finance has urged them to reflect on their existing processes and procedures and develop new capacities.
These capacities relate largely to sealing the deal, but JETPs need to be implemented, i.e converted into resourced activities on the ground. In-country capacities are indispensable for any transformation (Sokona, 2021) and JETPs were no exception. Converting the JETP political deal to investment plans in South Africa and Indonesia, and the investment plan into an implementation plan for the latter, has called for a solid institutional capacity to continuously ensure policy coherence in a whole-of-government approach, navigate the countries’ political economy and maintaining the critical mass of support required for implementation. Strong in-country governance structures have been key, as shown by the South African Presidential Climate Commission. They address earnest constraints in developing countries to steer change by an effective public management.
Supporting systems’ transformations
Having a holistic forward-looking view that ensures systemic transformations to meet climate and development goals simultaneously, and from this, inform the way the complex energy transition can be supported, is a daunting task. Luckily, there is at least one instrument that most countries have put to use: the Long-Term Low Emissions Development Strategies (LT-LEDS). Following best practice standards, it has been shown that the process to formulate them facilitates a more comprehensive and systemic understanding of the decisions that must be taken to trigger climate transition processes and stakeholders buy-in.
However, the link between LT-LEDS and JETPs has been blurry. From the four JETP political deals, only the Senegalese explicitly draws a connection between the two. South Africa has informed investment needs based on the pathways underpinning the official commitments, Indonesia has built its JETP on scenarios that are not necessarily representing what is underpinning in its LT-LEDS and Vietnam has no LT-LEDS is in place. This disconnect creates a risk that investments decided under the JETP trigger incremental changes instead of the needed holistic and structural transformations. To give an example, a clearer link between the JETP deal and the existing LT-LEDS in Indonesia could help justify whether retiring earlier coal-fired power plants optimises the path to secure and full decarbonised energy for final users.
Recognising the need for solutions-oriented, sector-specific approaches
JETPs have been criticised for an unnecessarily narrow scope, for instance when Indonesian actors were hoping to support geothermal sources, or local innovation, value chain development and industrialisation has been given a second order of priority. But they constitute an interesting step forward, in the direction of sector-driven approaches, which are needed to best adjust the solutions to specific systems and their underlying communities. JETPs have also implied a gigantic advance in efforts to be solutions-oriented by facing complex transitions in fossil fuel-dependant economies and largely translating them into profitable investments to catalyse private sector finance. There are limits to this, and therefore there must be sufficient public concessional finance to catalyse the larger scale of investments, which will presumably come from private sector, to address finance needs that cannot generate monetary returns.
Expectations for COP28
COP28 should be a turning point for the paradigm of international cooperation and UNFCCC has a pivotal role to initiate and organise this innovation in the context of the Global Stocktake. Given that this innovation is required urgently in support of actual action and upcoming NDCs revisions, JETPs lessons can expedite the thinking about the practical considerations for such a paradigm shift. Integration of these lessons can happen across the following options that COP28 GST Decision may consider in order to enhance international cooperation:
- Providing concrete guidance on enhanced international cooperation;
- Warranting the urgent focus on building in-country capacities as an indispensable condition to achieve an effective cooperative ecosystem;
- Establishing bridges with existing processes and actors cooperating outside UNFCCC;
- Enhancing transparency and accountability of the climate-relevant cooperation efforts;
- Making explicit the opportunities and expected obstacles to enhance justice and equity of the international financial system and to meaningful shift the quantum of finance provided in developing countries, including through the ongoing multilateral development banks’ reform;
- Encouraging and facilitating replication of JETP-type of deals, by convening actors that may have the capacity to roll-out this mechanism in an agile and responsible manner.
UNFCCC can act to tackle unfit international cooperation, without having to be the place where all the cooperative processes take place. JETPs were born at the outskirts of the COP, but nonetheless are an extraordinary source of learning that COP28 needs. Let us use it.
 Mobilisation of US$8.5 billion for South Africa; US$20 billion for Indonesia; US$15.5 billion for Vietnam; and US$2.5 billion for Senegal