The opinions expressed in this report are not necessarily those of the above-mentioned persons or the institutions that they represent.

Chairs of the taskforce

Yves Barou, Member of Comité Médicis Steering Committee
Jean Jouzel, Member of Comité Médicis Steering Committee

Taskforce members

Quentin Albert, Amundi
Christian de Perthuis, Chaire économique du Climat – Université Paris Dauphine
Jean-François Descaves, Chairman of Asset Market
François Ewald, Comité Médicis
Thomas Gaudin, Economist – ADEME
Christian Gollier,  Executive director of Toulouse School of Economics
Stéphane Hallegate, Economist – Banque Mondiale
Jean-Charles Hourcade, CIRED
Pierre Jacquet, Chairman of Global Development Network
Caroline Le Meaux, Amundi
Stanislas Pottier, Amundi
Philippe Portier, CFDT
Valérie Quiniou-Ramus, Executive director of Prospective et Research – ADEME
Mathieu Soulas, Director of Strategy & Climat – TOTAL
Claire Tutenuit, General delegate – Entreprises pour l’environnement
Stéphane Voisin, Program manager of « Sustainable finance » et Louis-Bachelier Institute


Charlotte Aubin, Chairwoman of Greenwish
David Djaïz, Essayist, professor at Sciences Po
Patrice Geoffron, Professor of Economics, Director Center of Energy and Climate Change Economics (CGEMP) Université de Paris Dauphine
Fanny Henriet, Professor and CNRS researcher at Paris School of Economics
Renaud Lagrave, Vice President of New Aquitaine region
Benoit Leguet, Managing Director of I4CE
Hervé Le Treut, Climatologist – IPSL
Denis Payre, Businessman en politician, Co-founder of Business Objects and Kiala

The social dimension, the condition and purpose of the energy transition!

In discussions on the energy transition, one aspect always seems to be left out: the social dimension. However, if this dimension is not properly taken into account, it could cause the energy transition to fail or be delayed for a long time. Social acceptability, social cohesion and the conviction that efforts are fair and shared will be the pillars of a successful transition.

The tension between social and environmental issues has been present from the outset, in fact since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm. The Rio conference then had the merit of defining poverty eradication as a top priority and sustainable development as a global perspective. Since then, many works have attempted to combine these two imperatives.

In recent years, however, a trend has developed, focusing on the urgency of climate change and relegating social issues to the background. The split has now widened even further, with schools of thought that are alien to each other and a mobilisation of different social forces. Protecting the environment, our common good, has become a divisive factor rather than a goal that should mobilise humanity as a whole. This trend is already resulting in delays, inconsistencies and setbacks.

This tension between climate action and social dimensions cannot be sidestepped, it needs to be tackled frankly. Raising awareness and educating is necessary, but it cannot alone resolve a contradiction that concerns globalisation and growing inequalities.

Global warming is expected to worsen inequalities, but also to redistribute the balance of power between countries according to their exposure to the new climate conditions, their own vulnerability, and, for some, their capacity to seize opportunities.

The energy transition, whether for prevention or adaptation, will in itself spontaneously aggravate inequalities, which are already soaring; it is naturally anti-redistributive because it implies an increase in energy costs and production costs. It therefore increases inequalities in terms of income and employment in developed countries, while penalising developing countries whose way out of poverty depends, like ours in the 20th century, on energy-intensive sectors.

It is illusory to think that “things will work themselves out” or to build this transition on the sacrifice of the social dimension!

For several decades, this sacrifice of the social dimension, and in particular of the working classes in developed countries, has stemmed from so-called liberal policies, with increased exposure to competition in return for access to world markets, a form of de-industrialisation and the acceptance of mass unemployment. Of course, the “average Frenchman” has benefited as a consumer, but he is also a producer and an employee, and in this respect he has lost a lot.

This goes way beyond reconciling the social dimension and the energy transition. It is about recognising that the energy transition cannot be successful without taking into account the social dimension and that such a transition, carried out in a fair manner, can become the foundation, the postulate, of a new social cohesion.