The shift toward a zero-carbon society in the Global South has the potential to drive sustainable development. A team, spearheaded by scientists from the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS), has innovatively introduced the first quantitative approach. This approach aims to measure the degree to which energy transitions in the Global South encompass elements of energy justice.
The study, led by author Maria Apergi and her team of researchers, has developed a method that enables a standardized and quantitative comparison of transition processes among various countries. Up until now, a quantitative measure assessing the alignment of energy transitions in countries outside the Global North with the imperative of energy justice has been absent. The index, featured in the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, aims to fill this gap.
The Concept of Energy Justice
Energy justice is a concept that delves into the equity of energy systems, considering the social and development consequences of energy technologies, policies, and projects. While a significant portion of existing studies on energy justice have concentrated on evaluating the justice implications of low-carbon transitions and renewable energy, the recently introduced index offers an analytical framework.
This framework aids in identifying injustices within energy processes and proposing potential solutions. The index was constructed by associating different components of energy justice with the three fundamental principles of Procedural Justice, Recognition Justice, and Distributional Justice.
Study Focuses on Four Countries
The study relies on empirical assessments drawn from four country case studies spanning the years 2010–2019: Kenya, Jordan, Chile, and Malaysia. The selection of these countries aims to provide a representative cross-section of world regions relevant to the Global South. Furthermore, all four countries have, to varying degrees, served as trailblazers in the realm of energy transition within their respective regions.
The analysis underscores the challenge posed by the limited availability of secondary data for measuring certain aspects of energy justice. It also emphasizes the difficulty in accessing information on the processes involved in renewable energy project development, particularly in the case of Malaysia.
The authors contend that this highlights the imperative to enhance the availability of pertinent data for a more comprehensive understanding of energy justice in these contexts.
Injustices in All Countries
The findings uncover the existence of distributional, procedural, and recognition justice concerns in the energy transitions of all four case study countries. The results from the index also indicate a noteworthy variation in the scores of each country across various components and principles of energy justice.
The authors stress that the country rankings may not consistently align with their economic development levels. For instance, Malaysia and Chile demonstrated higher scores in distributional justice, while Kenya and Jordan exhibited higher scores in procedural justice. Additionally, Kenya achieved higher scores in intergenerational justice and the distribution of costs and benefits related to renewable energy infrastructure.
Implications for Climate Policy
The researchers advocate for the collaboration of national governments and transnational entities, including multilateral institutions and investors, to actively develop policy frameworks and strategies that systematically incorporate justice considerations. This involves the formulation of regulations addressing due process in the design of energy systems, as well as considerations related to access, affordability, and other distributional aspects.
The authors underscore the necessity of policies aimed at promoting recognition justice, such as rural electrification programs and microfinancing, to safeguard vulnerable groups. They also emphasize the importance of incorporating social criteria into economic instruments that incentivize investment in renewable energies.
Furthermore, the authors suggest that policymakers could enhance the effectiveness of energy justice initiatives by implementing monitoring, reporting, and data verification procedures, thereby improving the quality and availability of relevant data.
The index introduced in the study is poised to enrich discussions on energy justice and streamline assessments of energy justice over time and across different countries. The outcomes underscore the multifaceted and intricate nature of the energy justice concept, particularly when applied to the complexities of energy transition.
Supported by abundant data and available online, the index has the potential to evolve into a valuable tool for researchers and decision-makers, aiding their systematic exploration and enhancement of energy justice both within the Global South and beyond.
Apergi, M., et al. (2024) An energy justice index for the energy transition in the global South, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2023.114238.