Energy Justice

Elsevier, Energy Research and Social Science, Volume 77, July 2021
Photograph of a young cobalt miner indebted to a mining boss in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Globally those in slavery, though small in absolute numbers (est. 40.2 million), contribute disproportionately to environmental destruction and carbon emissions. If modern slaves were a country, they would be the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, after China and the United States. Concurrently, anthropogenic changes to the global ecosystem have significant impacts on human life, creating vulnerability and displacement that drive modern slavery.
With Sustainable Development Goal 7, the United Nations has declared its ambition to ensure access to modern energy for all by 2030. Aside from broad appeals to differentiated responsibilities and ‘greener’ technologies, however, the goal leaves significant procedural questions unaddressed. This paper argues that the basic orientation of this approach is problematic, undermining possibilities for progress toward energy justice and equitable development.