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Energy Equity and Environmental Security

While energy generation supports economic growth and a higher standard of living, it also has financial and environmental costs. How do we reconcile the disproportionate consumption of energy by developed countries with increasing demand for energy in developing countries, and particularly across the Asia Pacific region? Is it appropriate for rich countries to encourage less developed countries to limit their energy consumption and shun luxury lifestyles? Is there a way for developing countries to access the technology and expertise that permits more efficient energy generation in the developed world? At the social level, should governments provide concessions to make energy more affordable and accessible for lower-income people? Do government subsidies for energy run the risk of subsidizing inefficient use of energy? 

Meetings of the Working Group were held: UNESCO Conference "Ethics of Energy Technologies and Human Rights", 19 August 2008, Bangkok, Thailand; UNESCO Conference on "Ethics of Energy Technologies: Energy Equity and Human Security", 22-23 September 2008, The Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai, India [Programme [pdf file] & Report [pdf file]; and Joint UNESCO-UKM Conference "Politics of Resources, Human Security and Wellbeing”, 19 June 2009, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

First Report of the Working Group on Energy Equity and Environmental Security is available


Moss, Jeremy; McMann, Michael; Rae, Jessica; Zipprich, Andrea; Macer, Darryl R.J.; Nyambati, Aori R.; Ngo, Diana; MingMing Cheng; Manohar, N.; Wolbring, Gregor. 2011. Energy equity and environmental security. Bangkok, Regional Unit for Social and Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific (RUSHSAP), UNESCO Bangkok. v + 84 pp.

ISBN 978-92-9223-421-8


[pdf - 923 KB].

The following is a list of current working group participants:

Dr. Jeremy Moss (co-chair): jmoss[at] 
Andrea Zipprich (co-chair):  a.zipprich[at]
Prof. Datin Dr. Azizan binti Baharuddin: azizanb[at]
Arjun Dhakal: arjun[at]; arjundhakal[at]
Mr. W Calvin Ho: etus16[at] 
Minming Cheng: cheng.mingming.china[at]
Dr. Chee-Khoon Chan: ckchan50[at]
Dr. Brigitte Jansen: jansen[at]
Dr. Darryl Macer: d.macer[at] 
Diana Ngo: dinngo[at]  
Dr. Gregor Wolbring, Asst. Professor: gwolbrin[at]
Dr. Jayapaul Azariah: jazariah[at]
Jessica Rae: jarae[at]
Dr. Minakshi Bhardwaj: bhardwajm[at] 
Mingming Cheng: m.cheng[at]     
Prof. N. Manohar: profmanohar[at]  
Michael McMann: mmcgann[at]
Dr. Ravichandran Moorthy: drravi5774[at]
"Vidyavachaspati" Prof. N. N. Murthy: vidyavachaspati[at]
Robert Aori Nyambati: nyambatiaori[at]
Dr. Robert Kanaly: rkanaly[at] 
Dr. Salil Sen: salil.sen[at] 
Dr. M. Selvanayagam: drmssel[at] 
Dr. Tavivat Puntarigvivat: shtpt[at] 

If you are interested in joining the working group, or participating in a meeting, please send an email to:<//a>


                                                         Executive Summary 

This report provides an overview of the ethical, economic and legal issues associated with energy equity and environmental security. The reasons for focusing on energy and environmental security are compelling. Establishing access to an effective, reliable and safe set of energy resources is one of the most important development goals for Asia Pacific nations. Without access to energy resources people will continue to be denied important goods such as food and water security, health services, economic opportunities, education and a safe environment. 

Achieving an ethical energy infrastructure is a complex task, especially against a backdrop of poverty and a lack of resources. It involves political as well as technical knowledge of what kind of infrastructure is required, and the impacts it will have on people’s lives and the environment. This report considers some of the broad technical options that could provide impetus for energy security from a range of perspectives. 

Conducting research on the range of energy options requires engagement with a broader set of questions regarding the likely social justice and environmental impacts of the different energy options. These two considerations – the social justice impacts and the environment – are crucial to understanding which of the energy options are the most feasible. Social justice considerations matter because, ultimately, energy provision has to be of benefit to people and communities, according to their needs. 

The challenge of delivering energy equity is therefore – broadly - to ensure that all people have access to the level of energy needed to provide for their security or wellbeing, while at the same time ensuring that our energy consumption behaviors do not jeopardize the wellbeing and security of others. Meeting this challenge involves reducing existing energy poverty through the development of renewable and sustainable energy infrastructure. This raises a number of important technical as well as ethical questions, including which technologies can best be employed to meet energy needs most sustainably and who should pay any additional costs associated with meeting energy needs through the provision of renewable energy infrastructure. Secondly, ensuring that our energy consumption behaviors do not jeopardize the wellbeing and security of others will also require a major shift in the way that all people, and especially affluent ones, today utilize existing energy resources. 

Closely connected to the social justice implications of energy provision are the environmental impacts. Whether energy technologies are sustainable is obviously crucial to whether they will provide lasting benefits. There are many ways in which something could have an environmental impact, both today and in the future. Energy infrastructure could reduce reliance on solid biofuels such as trees, for instance, if electricity replaced wood as the fuel for cooking. Changes in local and global pollution is a consequence of most technologies, so proper environment impact assessment is required. The issue of COemissions also raises important questions about climate change. 

The report presents a series of policy options informed by human rights, environmental security and economics that are useful to consider when we introduce new technologies to achieve change in the energy sector. The first chapter canvasses the meaning of human security and environmental security in the context of energy equity and climate change, and how these approaches compare to traditional economic perspectives. The second chapter outlines the ethical principles and approaches that ought to guide the development of energy policy and the distribution of energy resources and services within and between generations. It also considers what principles should determine who bears the cost of climate change mitigation and adaption action. The third chapter argues that access to energy should be considered a fundamental human right and examines which human rights documents support this aim. The fourth and final chapter provides an overview of two key market-based instruments proposed for reducing carbon emissions – a carbon tax and emissions trading scheme. It discusses the benefits and disadvantages of both, as well as the equity considerations that should be taken into account at various stages of policy formation.


This page was last updated on 24 August 2012