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Access to energy as a matter of justice


How can we allocate the world’s energy resources fairly and how do we minimise the negative effects of energy production? These are some of the key questions that will be discussed by sociologists, legal practitioners and philosophers at an international conference on energy justice.

“Energy consumption and the development of sustainable sources of energy are topics that are usually reserved for natural scientists and technologists. However, in recent years these issues have become more and more interesting from a societal and ethical perspective,” says Anders Melin, senior lecturer and a co-organiser of the conference Energy Justice and the Capability Approach.

The two-day conference will take place at Malmö University this week.

Research in this field has dealt with energy access among different groups of citizens, and how energy and the negative consequences of energy production can be distributed more fairly.

Melin is especially interested in how our choice of energy sources may affect future populations.

"How much fossil fuel is it justifiable to use in the Global North while knowing that the consequences are most severe for countries with greater poverty? If we are to achieve the two percent target set by climate researchers, we should probably avoid extracting oil, coal and natural gas, " he says.

“When it comes to energy, what scenario is most just? Should we continue to expand nuclear power or stop using it completely and get used to less electricity and perhaps also less growth?”

The Capability Approach is related to the concept of human rights and is an alternative to established theories within the field of national economics. Instead of concentrating on income and growth, this approach focuses on people’s opportunities for physical health and ability to shape and choose their own lives.

“These things require access to energy. How can energy access facilitate opportunities, and what does a lack of self-realisation entail? I hope that the conference will contribute to increased use of the Capability Approach to analyse these kinds of questions,” says Melin.

Text: Magnus Jando

Last updated by Maya Acharya