Pursuing Clean Energy Equitably

2011 Occasional Paper
By Newell, Peter ; Phillips, Jon; Mulvaney, Dustin

This paper explores the opportunities for a ‘just transition’ to low carbon and sustainable energy systems; one that addresses the current inequities in the distribution of energy benefits and their human and ecological costs. In order to prioritize policies that address energy poverty alleviation and sustainability concerns, national action and higher levels of international cooperation and coordination are required to steer public policy towards a broader range of public interests. This also implies re-directing the vast sums of private energy finance that currently serve a narrow set of interests. This paper considers how national and global energy governance must adapt and change to ensure a just transition to low carbon and sustainable energy systems. Creating a low carbon and sustainable energy transition will face significant challenges in overcoming opposition from a broad array of interest groups. The challenges of guiding a just transition are amplified by the relinquishing of government control over the energy sector in many countries and the current weak and fragmented state of global energy governance. The necessary changes in energy decision making will entail complex trade-offs and rebound effects that make strong, participatory and transparent institutional arrangements essential in order to govern such challenges equitably. In this respect, procedural justice is critical to achieving distributive justice and to creating a simultaneously rapid, sustainable and equitable transition to clean energy futures.

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